No big surprises in Red Deer County budget

Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood says ratepayers shouldn’t expect any big surprises coming out of this year’s budget.

Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood says ratepayers shouldn’t expect any big surprises coming out of this year’s budget.

While tax rate increases have yet to be determined, Wood said the county is not expecting to see average increases above the inflation rate, which is hovering around the one per cent mark.

“That just keeps us maintaining the same level of service,” said Wood. “We actually have a very conservative budget.”

Council will set tax rates next year after property assessment figures become available in February.

The draft operating budget given first reading on Tuesday is just over $39 million, up from $37.6 million last year. The proposed capital budget is $26.3 million, down from $42.3 million in 2012.

The county is anticipating adding only one new staff position this year to its complement of 79 employees.

A facilities maintenance position will be added to oversee the municipality’s aging facilities.

Heather Gray, the county’s director of corporate services, said the position is expected to save the county money in the long run because the municipality is increasingly relying on outside contractors for maintenance.

The capital budget is down sharply from this year, largely because a number of road projects that were not completed in 2011 were pushed to 2012.

As always, the biggest chunk of capital expenditures will go towards maintaining the county’s road network with $15.5 million earmarked for road projects.

“I think we’re on track to make sure our infrastructure is in very good shape in our municipality,” said Wood.

Another $6 million has been set aside to build a roundabout at a notorious bottleneck at Leva Avenue southeast of Costco in Gasoline Alley.

The county has also committed $585,000 to purchase a new fire truck and bush truck for Bowden.

Council will not take a final vote on the budget until Dec. 18 to give the public an opportunity to comment on the county’s spending plans.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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