Intense budget interest from small group

A poor showing for the Budget 2014 Open House did not damper spirits of Red Deer city staffers and council on Wednesday.

A poor showing for the Budget 2014 Open House did not damper spirits of Red Deer city staffers and council on Wednesday.

Mayor Morris Flewwelling said he was disappointed there wasn’t a larger turnout than the estimated 15 residents who participated at the open house at the Red Deer Lodge.

He said this was a missed opportunity for residents to share their priorities and their perspective for the city.

But Flewwelling said he was impressed with the level of engagement of those who asked questions about the city’s workings and future plans.

Each year the city gives the community a chance to weigh in on the budget priorities before the planning and number crunching gets underway. This year the city used a facilitated session where residents asked questions on strategic direction, priorities, infrastructure spending and tax levels.

Following the facilitated session, residents could spend one-on-one time with councillors.

Business owner Terence Balgobin said this was the first time he attended a budget open house.

Balgobin said he was interested in learning about the city’s efficiencies.

“We find Red Deer to have (too much bureaucracy),” said Balgobin. “I think there’s a lot of redundancies within the city. I think we overspend a lot of money to do things that could be handled a lot more efficiency.”

Balgobin said he doesn’t know if he was heard but he liked the opportunity to have a forum within the city.

Resident David Cadrin said he wanted to hear about what the city is going to spend its money on for the next 100 years.

He attended hoping to hear more about the rationale behind the proposed six-lane expressway and other plans.

“I am impressed with Red Deer because before I moved here I lived in Saskatchewan,” said Cadrin. “A couple times in the news I heard some things that they did that I thought were really well-visioned. Like spending money on the pathways in town here. I’ve been to a lot of places and I have never seen anything as well as that and as well thought out.”

City manager Craig Curtis looked on the bright side of the poor turnout. Curtis said the room would have been packed, if there was a huge issue brewing in the city.

“It’s really important to try to get input from the out set and when you don’t have anything on the table it’s more difficult to react,” said Curtis. “But if you don’t get information from the out set certain things get set along the way and it comes more difficult to adjust.”

The city is faced with a number of challenges even before the number crunching begins for the 2014 operating and capital budgets. There’s $600,000 less in the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MIS) grant, lower revenue from the pending closure of the local ambulance dispatch and carry overs from the 2013 budget including $1 million towards the hiring of new police officers.

Check the city’s website at www.reddeer.ca for more information on how to provide input in the 2014 budgets.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com