City budgets appear intact

A $200,000 drop in provincial funding will not force the City of Red Deer to re-open its municipal budgets.

A $200,000 drop in provincial funding will not force the City of Red Deer to re-open its municipal budgets.

City manager Craig Curtis said the dust has settled and the city has crunched the numbers from the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI), the main source of revenue from the province, and looked at other grant programs affecting the city.

The MSI numbers have remained relatively the same across the province.

The city will receive about $17,067,119 on the capital side, about $200,000 less than in 2012 and roughly $1.2 million on the operating side, same as in 2012.

This fell within the percentage change that shifted between municipalities depending on growth.

Curtis said this will not cause the city to change its operating and capital budgets because the slight change was expected.

“That was the best case scenario that we could have expected,” said Curtis. “They recognized municipalities have already set their budgets and related to that.”

The MSI operating portion will be phased out over three years. The funding will be converted into a grant program for collaborative projects. Curtis said the exact details on the grant program were not released.

In the budget there is also an initiative working on a new longer term funding strategy.

“We’ve been given three-year estimates but there is no complete commitment beyond the first year,” said Curtis. “What we see in the three-year commitment is likely the capital funding remaining the same and the operating funding being phased into that other program.”

While the slight change to the MSI funding was to be expected, Curtis expressed concerns in other areas of the provincial budget.

The province slashed municipal grants available through its Water for Life strategy by 56 per cent — to $75 million from $170 million.

“I am really concerned that our partners in that project are going to have to come up with additional dollars and it seems to be coming after the event,” said Curtis.

He also expressed concerns over the axing of the Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP) and the Community Spirit grant.

“A lot of groups (in Red Deer) rely on it,” said Curtis. “That has brought fairly significant dollars into this community. Many agencies rely on it.”

On the bright side, Curtis said, the Green Transit Incentives Program (GreenTRIP) seems to have doubled its funding, which may be good news for Red Deer.

The forecast in 2012-2013 was for $93 million but it has increased to $200 million in 2013-2014. Depending on how it is split, it could have a real benefit to some of Red Deer’s transit initiatives,” said Curtis.

“We will be watching that closely.”

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