Rumours of cutbacks

Rumours of shrinking provincial grants has Red Deer contemplating how far it can stretch its capital budget.

Rumours of shrinking provincial grants has Red Deer contemplating how far it can stretch its capital budget.

The $1.4-billion municipal infrastructure program, called the Municipal Sustainability Initiative, could be slashed again in the face of Alberta’s growing deficit.

“We are worried, but we have nothing official to go on yet,” Mayor Morris Flewwelling said this week.

Funding to municipalities has already fallen short compared to what Alberta’s Conservative government promised for the 10-year program.

This year, Red Deer’s share dropped from a projected $12.4 million to just over $8 million.

Next year, the city is in line for $29 million.

“It could be as much as last year, but the rumours I’m hearing is it won’t even be that,” the mayor said.

The city could come out $140 million short over the 10 years if funding stays flat, or worse if the province goes back on its plan to boost payouts each year, he said.

Red Deer is preparing its capital budget, which will go before council in December.

The only relief in sight is coming in the form of lower capital costs like drywall, labour, concrete, wood and fuel, Flewwelling said.

Some projects in the city’s 10-year capital plan, like the $58-million Civic Centre project, could be pushed further into the future.

But delaying projects is not in the best interests of the city and its citizens, Flewwelling said.

“What happens is you get these gaps and you get the pent up demand.”

He said visitors rave over amenities like the Waskasoo Park trail system, the range of international businesses that call the city home, social programming like the city’s plan to end homelessness, and arts activities.

Red Deer is a leader in Canada and that’s how it should remain, Flewwelling said.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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