Mayor Tara Veer hopes to see Red Deer’s need for a hospital expansion, a 24-hour homeless shelter and more Crown prosecutors addressed in next week’s provincial budget.
The city is preparing with more municipal belt tightening, while staff tries to find ways of maintaining the programs and services citizens expect, said Veer.
Administration will release its proposed capital budget on Friday, with the provincial budget to be announced next Thursday.
“While we recognize we are in an era of economic austerity, we hope the province will take measures to minimize impacts on Albertans,” said the mayor.
The city will be looking for funding and infrastructure investment in areas that support local efforts to reduce crime and improve community safety, she said.
“We will be watching specifically for the province’s intention regarding support for the hospital, a shelter and additional Crown prosecutors,” said Veer.
The protracted provincial recession has been felt by everybody, including municipalities. She added, “We will continue to advocate on behalf of our citizens to ensure we receive the investment and support our community needs.”
Every year, the city receives funding through the Municipal Sustainability Initiative grant. It helps fund capital projects such as upgrades and new infrastructure.
The amount received over the past few years has fluctuated slightly, and this year, the city is preparing for a continued downward trend, said Veer.
“It is clear we are shifting into an era of provincial austerity. It’s more important than ever to ensure we find ways to minimize local spending to align with our economic reality, while still preparing for future growth.”
City manager Allan Seabrooke is concerned about additional downloading of provincial responsibilities onto municipalities at a time when community budgets are already stretched thin.
He noted the city relies on provincial funding for the maintenance, upgrading and replacement of infrastructure.
“When it comes to essential services … there is an expectation from several levels of government to provide the necessary funding,” said Seabrooke.
If the provincial government cuts municipal funding too deeply, “we can’t afford to fund the shortfall,” since the city’s budget has also been minimized, he said.