City Manager Craig Curtis presented the proposed $370.3 million 2019 operating budget to city council Wednesday morning. Robin Grant/Red Deer Express

Reducing crime is a top priority in Red Deer’s 2019 operating budget

City council will debate operating budget from Jan. 8th to 18th

Red Deer City council will debate a proposed $370.3 million operating budget from Jan. 8th to 18th that lists reducing crime as a top priority.

This year the operating budget has increased by just over $3 million, which amounts to a 2.5 per cent tax increase.

The proposed budget includes a one per cent capital contribution amount and a property tax revenue requirement that does not exceed 2.5 per cent.

Mayor Tara Veer said the 2019 budget had to take into consideration Red Deer’s slow economic recovery from the recent recession.

“It is fair to characterize the budget as one which keeps an eye on the future and maintains quality services for our citizens, while managing expectations given the significant reality that we continue to find ourselves in within our local economy,” she said.

As a result of the submitted budget, a home valued at $325,000, which experienced an average assessment value change for the 2019 tax year, may see an approximately $54 increase per year in the municipal portion of their taxes, according to the City press release.

This does not include any changes to the education portion of property taxes as these will not be known until the Spring of 2019 when the province releases its budget.

The budget outlines that crime and public safety are top priorities for Red Deer residents, according to the results of an Ipsos Reid poll.

“One of the areas of most significant investment in responding to that is certainly with respect to the additional safety resources,” Veer said.

This investment includes $566,100 for 10 new police officers and $729,999 for new resources. The Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre will also receive $158,000, if this operating budget is passed.

City Manager Craig Curtis said that over the years Red Deer has made investments in its roads and roads maintenance. Roads improvement as a result has changed the operating budget’s top priority from transportation to crime.

“We’ve seen a great deal more disruption particularly in the downtown area in terms of crime and crime throughout the City,” Curtis said, adding that while crimes rates increased steadily until 2017, the crime rate is now on the decline.

“We need a shelter desperately, we need warming facilities during the winter and we need to have somewhere for the people who are occupying rough sleeper camps to go,” he said.

A total of $200,000 is proposed to address drug and rough sleeper camp debris clean up.

Curtis said another key aspect of the proposed budget is a 33 per cent increase in funding for cultural groups through the Community Culture Development Fund over the next two years.

“This is to address sustainability issues for culture groups that have made a plea to the City for increased funding at a time when sponsorship is difficult or competitive,” he said.

As part of the 2019 operating budget process, residents have the chance to review the budget and provide feedback to Council before it is considered.

Feedback can be provided by email to feedback@reddeer.ca or in writing at City Hall, Collicutt Centre, Red Deer Public Library Downtown Branch, Timberlands Branch, and G.H. Dawe Community Centre Branch. Copies of the budget are available at those locations and will be online at www.reddeer.ca/budget starting Dec. 13th.

The deadline to submit feedback is Dec. 21st at 4:30 p.m.

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