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Our city debt just keeps piling up

Re: City council spending decisions

Recently, Red Deer city council voted to set aside the $90-million pool for further study. Apparently the city is still trying to secure the 2019 Canada Winter Games. A $17-million traffic circle has been approved for the 30th Avenue/ 67th Street intersection and more for the Ross/Taylor re-alignment.

My understanding is the pool and winter games decisions will lead to substantial tax increases every year up to 2019.

Also, are the two traffic changes going to prove efficient, given the fact that both intersections are surrounded by traffic lights a short block away on all sides?

It appears a lot of money will be spent and traffic disruption will occur, just to shift the traffic choke points.

If traffic circles are more efficient, use them at new intersections in the future. If one is required at 67th Street and 30th Avenue, why wasn’t it done prior to all the commercial development when the disruption would have been less?

In the pre-election survey conducted by the Advocate on Oct. 12, 2013, most of the current council felt that tax increases in the range of three per cent to four per cent were acceptable. The last few years, the annual inflation has been in the 1.5 per cent to two per cent range. To continue on this path will squeeze many taxpayers already struggling to make ends meet.

If the city plans on looking to Edmonton for help, have they seen the provincial government’s recent Building Alberta Plan, 2013? One of the three headings is “Living within our means.” Many departments will receive zero increases over the next three years. To quote Page 6: “In the face of financial challenges, Budget 2013 kept operating expenses to zero, because we recognize we can’t keep spending at the same rate of increase and be sustainable.”

The current city debt of approximately $240 million costs approximately $2.1 million per year just to service. That’s a lot of snow removal, which has reared its ugly head again. Having lived in Red Deer since 2001, this has become an annual irritant for citizens. Has council not learned from the francophone high school and bike lane backlash?

Services (police, fire, ambulance, garbage collection and buses) have to be able to operate as well as people being able to get to work. Million-dollar spray and skateboard parks lying under snow for five months are not the answer. Council has to differentiate between what is nice to have as a city and what we need to have. From some councillors’ comments, it appears they have a “Keeping up with the Joneses” attitude in relation to similar sized cities in the province. This is hardly sound fiscal policy.

We have seen a large increase in the number of city employees in the last few years. To continue with many of the projects will only continue the bloat at City Hall. For council to say we are comfortably within our debt load does little to address the situation. Sooner or later, we have to pay the piper.

Mark McIntyre

Red Deer

 

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