Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer accepts the proposed 2020 operating budget binder from City Manager Allan Seabrooke. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer accepts the proposed 2020 operating budget binder from City Manager Allan Seabrooke. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Proposed Red Deer 2020 operating budget would require a 2.5 per cent tax increase

A recommended $385.7 million budget will be discussed next month by council

Red Deer city council will be considering a hold-the-line 2020 operating budget that only retains existing service levels.

Yet taxpayers could still face a 2.49 per cent tax increase in the new year if the proposed budget is approved by council.

The recommended $385.7 million operating budget was presented to city council on Thursday by Red Deer’s City Manager Allan Seabrooke.

He said it’s based on being sensitive to the difficult economic climate, being cost-effective, and being efficient in the delivery of city services.

But Seabrooke knows some people will still balk at the proposed nearly 2.5 per cent tax increase.

“We understand that any amount of tax increase, especially in this time of economic austerity, is disappointing to our residents,” added Seabrooke.

Three options to lower the tax increase further

Unless council opts to change past practise, one percent of the proposed 2.49 per cent increase would go towards future capital projects. Seabrooke said this is needed so the city can continue to deliver on all the amenities in its 10-year capital plan.

That would leave a 1.49 per cent increase to cover inflationary operating costs.

Seabrooke said the city must still purchase items that go up in price every year.

To have a complete tax freeze in 2020 would strain the city over the longer term, he added, because it would effectively mean a budget reduction under which building maintenance could not happen and service reductions would be necessary.

While the economy “has not rebounded as quickly as we would have expected or liked,” Seabrooke said the city still needs to deliver “quality of life” services Red Deerians expect, while trying to find ways of attracting new investment.

The city’s proposed budget was also impacted by a reduction in provincial dollars. But Seabrooke said about $5 million in savings were achieved by administration through factoring staffing turn-over and some salary savings through vacant positions, and by reduced transfers to capital reserves in the short term.

Mayor Tara Veer said city council does not expect to add any new employees next year, except for the few additional new police officers already approved for 2020 as part of last year’s budget.

With the protracted recession and a drop in municipal revenues, Veer added that the city is “on the cusp of a watershed moment.”

At some point soon it will be hard to keep taxes and utilities as low and still maintain existing programs, she added.

If city revenues don’t recover, taxes or user fees might have to go significantly higher, or city council will have to have some difficult discussions about reducing service levels, she added.

Seabrooke feels that the $2,300 in city taxes paid annually by owners of an average $325,000 home are great value, considering everything that Red Deerians get — from clean water to policing and transit, to recreational infrastructure.

“It’s about the best deal going…”

City budget talks will begin on Jan. 7 and are scheduled for five days.

Red Deer City Council

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Red Deer City Manager Allan Seabrooke. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Red Deer City Manager Allan Seabrooke. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Just Posted

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, which causes COVID-19, emerge from the surface of cells isolated from a patient in the U.S. and cultured in a lab in a 2020 electron microscope image. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories
Alberta adds 463 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

The central zone has 818 active cases

Red Deer teacher Janelle Van Tetering had her students write letters to attach to Blankets of Hope, which will be donated to the Mustard Seed. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer teacher, students donate ‘Blankets of Hope’ to those in need

A Red Deer teacher and her students are giving warm blankets and… Continue reading

RCMP have charged a Sylvan Lake man for allegedly defrauding five people of more than $100,000.
Advocate file photo
20-year-old woman killed in collision: Blackfalds RCMP

A 20-year-old woman was killed in a collision on Saturday, says Blackfalds… Continue reading

Patrick Malkin, co-owner of The Granary Kitchen, says he wants the provincial government to lift COVID-19 restrictions that shutdown in-person dining. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer restaurant owner ‘frustrated’ in-person dining restrictions are still in place

Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced the restrictions won’t yet be eased this past Thursday

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta identifies 573 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths on Saturday

There are currently 9,727 active cases of the virus in the province

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Toronto Maple Leafs' Alexander Kerfoot, centre, tries to get the puck past Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom, right, as Noah Hanifin looks on during first period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Morgan Reilly’s three assists lifts Maple Leafs to 3-2 win over Flames

Leafs 3 Flames 2 CALGARY — Morgan Reilly’s three assists helped the… Continue reading

Green Bay Packers' Adrian Amos (31) reacts after intercepting a pass intended for Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Mike Evans during the second half of the NFC championship NFL football game in Green Bay, Wis., Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Road warriors: Bucs win 31-26 at Green Bay, reach Super Bowl

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ road… Continue reading

People arrive to be tested for COVID-19 at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, January 24, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Too soon to know if Canada’s COVID-19 case decline will continue, Tam says

MONTREAL — It’s still too soon to know whether the recent downward… Continue reading

Flowers are seen at the front door of Dr. Denis Vincent's dental practice in North Vancouver, B.C. on March 31, 2020, after he died of COVID-19. The British Columbia Dental Association has written a letter to Premier John Horgan urging him to include dentists in a priority group for the COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dentists, teachers disappointed they won’t be prioritized for vaccine in B.C.

VANCOUVER — Dentists and teachers are among the groups that are disappointed… Continue reading

Indiana Pacers guard Justin Holiday (8) shoots over Toronto Raptors forward DeAndre' Bembry (95) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Anunoby’s hot hand helps short-handed Raptors beat Pacers

Raptors 107 Pacers 102 INDIANAPOLIS — OG Anunoby scored a season-high 30… Continue reading

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

OTTAWA — Under fluorescent lights, Wendy Muckle surveys the supervised consumption site… Continue reading

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) headquarters Connaught Building is pictured in Ottawa on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. nbsp; THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Taxpayers’ watchdog sees complaints spike, raising worries about pandemic tax season

OTTAWA — Canada’s taxpayers’ ombudsperson says his office has seen a steep… Continue reading

Most Read