No wiggle room on tax hike

After three days of heavily scrutinizing the City of Red Deer’s draft 2012 operating budget, city council whittled down the municipal property tax increase to 4.32 per cent on Monday.

After three days of heavily scrutinizing the City of Red Deer’s draft 2012 operating budget, city council whittled down the municipal property tax increase to 4.32 per cent on Monday.

Civic leaders spent nearly seven hours reviewing cost-savings and in the end, approved a budget standing at $272.6 million. The total budget heading into debate stood at $272.3 million, thanks to a few minute add-ons, and a projected municipal property tax increase at 4.55 per cent. A total of $4.1 million out of the operating budget will support the tax increase.

The operating budget of $263.58 million finalized last January saw the average municipal tax bill for homeowners climb by 3.9 per cent. Typically, the final property tax rate comes in lower when the educational portion of the taxes are finalized in the spring.

Mayor Morris Flewwelling said council had very little wiggle room on which to make changes, considering that departments were asked to limit their spending to essentials.

“To get the (tax increase) down to a couple tenths of a percentage doesn’t sound like much,” Flewwelling said. “If you come in with a sloppy budget, you can change it. But when you come in with a budget this tight, you are not going to change it that much.”

While Flewwelling said he recognizes many taxpayers will be OK with such an increase, he expects single families, the working poor and seniors living on a fixed income and in their own homes, will likely feel the impact of higher bills in addition to increased utility rates that are coming as well.

Last November, council endorsed a capital budget of $94.8 million — one that came with few frills. The city will spend money on Red Deer’s first spray park and skateboard park, both of which are slated to be finished in 2013.

Coun. Chris Stephan wasn’t so pleased with the budget. He was the sole opponent on a number of budgetary items, including the six charters or workplans that will go forward in 2012. He would have liked to have seen the city approve several more Mounties outright, instead of waiting and see what comes out of further discussions on policing and crime prevention initiatives through the Safety charter.

He said he was taking a hard line because council must answer to taxpayers.

“I didn’t support a lot of the spending and some of the cost savings as well,” Stephan said.

Stephan said some of the cost savings passed, such as in areas of policing and parks, are areas that taxpayers are concerned about.

“We need to reallocate resources — we need to cut,” said Stephan. “That means reducing staffing in some areas and adding in other areas. In this budget we could have easily done that without any tax increase.”

Coun. Paul Harris said he’s ecstatic about the operating budget overall. People he’s spoken with, on the left and the right of the political spectrum, seem to be pleased, he added.

“This budget represents a 2.1 per cent tax increase going into savings,” said Harris. “It (also) represents 2.2 per cent going into how we fund our operations. If you look at the Alberta consumer pricing index, it’s 3.2. So we’re actually decreasing the amount of money going into operations by almost one per cent.”

The city is being fiscally responsible, both in terms of savings to deal with debt repayment and also in terms of cutting back to deal with slower economic times, Harris said.

Just Posted

Is the fate of Red Deer’s Parsons House solely in the hands of the province?

Demolition of old police station next door to begin this fall

2019 Winter Games will transform Red Deer: Olympic organizer

Team leader behind 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics provides inspirational pep talk

Red Deer RCMP make series of arrests as part of Project Pinpoint

Seven separate incidents lead police to repeat offenders

Red Deer city council gets the ball rolling on new fees for tax assessment summaries

Changes to provincial legislation has spurred a rise in requests

Red Deer County backs Canadian Finals Rodeo

Council approved $50,000 for the event’s inaugural event in Red Deer

WATCH: Red Deer students take part in annual run

Dawe/St. Pat’s Run reaches 40th anniversary

Smile Cookie fundraiser campaign for Reading College kicks off

Fundraising campaign runs Sept. 12-18 for program that helps children improve their reading

‘Nightmare that won’t end’: Storm evacuees can’t return yet

WILMINGTON, N.C. — Hundreds of people waited in long lines for water… Continue reading

New bridge collapses into river in rural Saskatchewan hours after opening

HYAS, Sask. — A rural politician in eastern Saskatchewan says he’s at… Continue reading

Halifax researchers tag great white shark in Atlantic Canada for first time

HALIFAX — For the first time in Atlantic Canadian waters, scientists have… Continue reading

Liberal riding association president blindsided by MP’s defection

OTTAWA — The president of an Ontario Liberal riding association says he… Continue reading

Pope gives bishops more decision-making options

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis decreed on Tuesday that ordinary Catholics should… Continue reading

Hurricane rating system fails to account for deadly rain

TRENTON, N.C. — When meteorologists downgraded Hurricane Florence from a powerful Category… Continue reading

Glad company: Trailer for Disney’s ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

LOS ANGELES — A beloved nanny is preparing to take to the… Continue reading

Most Read