City administration shaved off a few more dollars from the 2017 draft operating budget on Tuesday to reduce the proposed 2.51 per cent property tax increase to 2.45.
Dean Krejci, the city’s chief financial officer, said most of the savings came from deferring a $75,000 licence fee to update city software. The project didn’t get as far as expected so the cost will be deferred to 2018.
Administration tabled the $357-million budget in December. On Tuesday city council heard presentations from administration to kick off budget discussions that will run to Jan. 20.
Mayor Tara Veer said the nominal net savings identified by administration provided some momentum to reduce the proposed tax increase for Red Deer’s most challenging budget in recent memory with Alberta’s economic slowdown and the drop in city revenue.
City departments including Transit, Recreation, Parks and Culture, Planning, and Inspections and Licensing have all seen major revenue reductions.
“Having said that though, we ended the day with an identification of numerous operational cost savings and efficiencies in our service delivery to citizens so council will begin our deliberations tomorrow,” Veer said on Tuesday.
She said council and city administration have adopted a culture of continuous improvement.
“Our citizens often say to us that they don’t just want taxation to increase in order to deliver services to the community. They want us to find new ways of delivering quality services to our citizens,” Veer said.
Ahead of the budget, city staff have already made organizational changes to reduce costs, improve quality and increase efficiencies by sharing fleet resources where possible across departments, using a different ice melt product to reduce the need for sanding and plowing on hills and bridges, and replacing annual dog tags with permanent tags, to name just a few.
Administration has also identified several cost savings that could reduce the budget by $1.2 million. Some of the cost savings recommended by the city manager include:
- $171,000 by cancelling the 2017 census.
- $206,000 if the city changes insurance providers.
- $11,800 by providing medical co-response only to the more serious medical calls to emergency services.
- $32,522 by reducing parking enforcement costs through the use of hand held digital technology.
- $15,000 by renegotiating the phone system service contract and eliminating city blue pages in the phone book.
Some additional cost savings not recommended by the city manager include:
- $75,000 by removing fluoride from the city’s water system.
- $29,904 by eliminating snow clearing of Waskasoo trails.
- $15,000 by cutting the spay/neuter program that helps citizens who can’t afford the service.