Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer says some details of the provincial government’s 2021-22 budget need to be ‘sorted out’ when it comes to the hospital expansion funding. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer says some details of the provincial government’s 2021-22 budget need to be ‘sorted out’ when it comes to the hospital expansion funding. (File photo by Advocate staff)

More detail needed regarding hospital funding, says Red Deer mayor

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer says some information is unclear regarding the total funding the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre will receive, following Thursday’s provincial budget announcement.

“There are still some details that need to be sorted out when it comes to the hospital expansion funding. Originally it was stated there would be $100 million, but we’re only seeing $59 million over the next three years in the budget released yesterday,” Veer said Friday.

“We will be and have already reached out to the province on that specifically, ensuring that they follow through on their word for the full amount on the Phase 1 capital funding for the hospital.”

Veer said the hospital is the No. 1 infrastructure request the people of Red Deer have for the provincial government.

“It is our understanding (Alberta Health Services) hopes to release the business plan for the Red Deer Regional Hospital expansion, hopefully in the spring. I continue to emphasize the necessity for public consultation and feedback on the proposed phasing of the hospital,” she said.

“Since the funding announcement last year, I have spoken personally with the premier, as well as the minister of health, emphasizing that the hospital will likely need three phases of significant capital funding. They have indicated that they’re waiting for the business plan from AHS in order to determine the phasing for Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3, and what components would be in them.”

Another area of concern is the reduction in funding for post-secondary institutions, said Veer.

“Red Deer College is one of the most important strategic economic diversification strategies in our community and our local economy,” said Veer.

“We have significant questions about the status of our college and renew our call to the Province to release its post-secondary system review to fully understand the local impacts.”

Overall, the city is “confident” there will be minimal short-term impacts to the approved budget, a press release said Friday.

“We recognize the continuing economic challenges Alberta is facing that have local consequences, which are exacerbated by the pandemic,” said Mayor Tara Veer.

“We didn’t expect any new local capital projects from the province, and we’re optimistic to see that our anticipated grant funding to the City of Red Deer remains stable for the next two years. However, we will need to manage expectations with respect to long term capital.”

The Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) grants outlined in the Provincial budget that fund the city’s capital budgets align with the estimates, which means the city can continue with the projects approved. Starting in 2024, the funding will begin to decrease, which means the city will have to review the capital plan and make adjustments.

City manager Allan Seabrooke said there will be impacts based on the outlined reduction in MSI funding

“Originally, the province intended to eliminate MSI in 2023, however, given the current circumstances and economic uncertainty, they are extending MSI for two years to stabilize provincial revenues before launching the Local Government Fiscal Framework in 2024-2025,” Seabrooke said.

As for the MSI operating grants, the city’s estimates in the approved budgets align with the province’s funding for the next two years. This means that the city will not see any impact to the approved 2021 and 2022 operating budgets when it comes to that revenue stream.

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