Red Deer residents face almost 4% tax increase this year

Council adds more police, programming and trail clearing as part of operating budget

Red Deer residents face a higher than anticipated tax increase after City council recently approved its 2011 operating budget totaling more than $263 million.

After eight days of deliberation, City council approved a tax increase of 3.98%, which was up from the 3.74% initially proposed.

“My first thought is one of relief,” said Mayor Morris Flewwelling, after the budget was approved. “This is a huge job. It is a very demanding exercise.

“I’m also relieved that council showed a respectfulness to the budget of the administration that they put forward to us. Council asked the questions, they probed, they studied and they put forward propositions but basically we stayed in line with what we started out with – that was to hold the line and keep the vision.”

Resulting in the higher than proposed tax increase included the addition of three RCMP officers beginning in June.

Initially, Councillor Chris Stephan wanted to see six new officers added to the Red Deer RCMP, which would have cost $381,435 if they started in June plus $10,000 – a one-time set up cost for the officers.

After council voted Stephan’s motion down, Councillor Dianne Wyntjes proposed adding another three RCMP officers to City streets.

Council voted in favour of that motion which added $190,718 to the operating budget and a one-time cost of $5,000 for set up.

Councillor Cindy Jefferies also proposed that council consider providing one-time funding for snow clearing on about 20 kms of City trails. Council approved that motion.

Council also approved $100,000 in funding for child minding and dry land programming at the G.H. Dawe Community Centre.

Some other key budget initiatives include the RCMP member fee agreement at a cost of $850,000, Red Deer Public Library budget increase totaling $119,000, increased snow removal service at bus stops at a cost of $100,000 and an increase to the snow and ice control program by $500,000 which includes the addition of $400,000 as a reserve.

Council also voted in favour of some initiatives to help trim the operating budget. These include the elimination of landfill coupons, reducing hours of operation at recreation centres on statutory holidays and low use days and closing five snow bank rinks in City communities.

In addition, City residents will also notice an increase to their utility bills.

Upgrades to the provincial transmission grid and the City’s electrical infrastructure also had an impact on utility rates. For an average household that consumes 600 kWh of electricity per month, it is estimated users will see an increase of 5.4%.

For water, wastewater, recycling, garbage and yard waste pick-up, the typical monthly cost for a residential household will be approximately $91.20 per month.

This provides 22,000 litres of potable water delivered to each household per month, collection and treatment of the resulting wastewater and weekly collection of garbage, yard waste and recycling.

While this is a 9% increase over 2010, rates for these services are competitive when compared to other municipalities in Alberta, said Flewwelling.