The City of Red Deer is cutting five per cent of its workforce this fall to pare its annual budget by $7 million.
The organizational changes are necessary due to financial strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, piling on top of Alberta’s already depressed economy, said Mayor Tara Veer on Tuesday.
“Difficult decisions had to be made,” she added, so the city could keep delivering the kind of municipal services Red Deerians expect, while keeping next year’s property tax increase at zero.
Veer said the changes recognize the financial hardships many citizens and business owners are experiencing.
“This is our new economic reality. We’ve been recessed for many years and the pandemic has produced some seismic shifts… the City of Red Deer is responding.”
According to city manager Allan Seabrooke, Red Deer has many full, part time and casual workers, adding up to about 1,200 full-time equivalents.
Of these, about 75 FTEs will be reduced to bring down expenses.
Fifty-two city managers and staff have already voluntarily accepted early retirement incentives — but Seabrooke expects more job cuts are needed, so reductions will continue to be made this fall.
Some financial incentives were offered to “help tide (the people who are leaving) over for a few months” until their pensions kick in, said Seabrooke. He added he couldn’t go into more detail without compromising employee privacy.
Some of the downsized positions will be permanently eliminated, while others might have to be replaced by new hires somewhere down the road, he said.
The changes have required significant administrative restructuring.
Seabrooke said the city will now have three general managers overseeing various departments. There will be some amalgamation needed between different departments, for example, parks and culture services, he added.
“The reductions are necessary, but it doesn’t make it less difficult to complete them,” admitted Seabrooke. “We’ve had to pull back on some non-essential services to minimize tax impacts so we can keep the core services.”
Veer promised that residents will retain the municipal services they count on, such as recreation and transit.
“We have invaluable staff… but this was necessary to secure a financially stable future,” she said.