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City proposes tax hike in new budget

A reduction in Red Deer’s proposed property tax increase to 3.91 per cent from 4.15 per cent opened the first day of the city’s operating budget talks on Monday.

City chief financial officer Dean Krejci said staff under-estimated the revenue from construction growth, which in turn lowered the projected property tax increase.

The revenue was estimated at roughly $1.9 million but after doing more number crunching, the figure increased to $2.14 million.

Mayor Morris Flewwelling said the reduction started the deliberations on the estimated $284-million budget on the right foot.

“It’s very encouraging at this point to have the tax increase at 3.91 per cent because council could pull it up a little more or bump it down a little,” said Flewwelling. “But nothing big is going to happen.”

Flewwelling added that he is happy with the budget because at this point the budget is fairly tight with everything on the pages questioned and vetted all along the way.

“It was wonderful news to hear today that the estimated building return will be higher. It’s always good to get good news like that,” said Flewwelling.

“I think we’re in for one for (today) that isn’t quite as exciting so stay tuned.”

The first day of budget talks went over with little fanfare as city manager Craig Curtis and Krejci gave an overview of the 2013 operating budget, much of which council has heard before in draft form and at the media briefing on Friday.

On Monday, Elaine Vincent, the director of corporate services division, delivered the $18.5 million budget for financial services, information technology services, legislative services, and revenue and assessment services.

One-time funding for the October municipal election to the tune of $238,429 was the highest budget item. The funding covers media advertising, designing and printing of promotional materials, council swearing in ceremony and reception, new council orientation, gifts for outgoing councillors and out-going council recognition event.

City residents will elect a new nine-person council including a mayor on Oct. 21.

Legislative Services requested $84,878 for the continuation of an appeals co-ordinator position that deals with the appeal board and assessments. The position has been funded on a one-time basis in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Increased workload is the driver behind the continued need.

“It’s maintaining those core services and maintaining those visions doing what we can with the limited resources,” said Vincent. “We did achieve some cost-savings but we are such a small department it’s difficult for us because we do impact people.”

There are 136 staff working in the division’s four departments.

Starting at 1 p.m. today, council will hear from the City Manager’s Department ($7.4 million), Planning Services ($11 million), Development Services ($151.4 million) and Community Services ($87.5 million).

The debate begins on Wednesday when council will delve into the details and the division’s budgets.

• Residents will be able to file their census electronically for the first time this year. Enumerators will deliver to every household an electronic pin tag that will be unique to that household. They will be able to log in and provide census information. The details are being worked out but the model will be similar to a pilot in Airdire. There is no immediate cost savings, says Vincent but in the future money will be saved.



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