Money for four additional RCMP officers and the clean-up of used needle debris is part of a $361-million operating budget, to be considered by Red Deer city council.
The lean 2018 budget to be discussed in January recognizes the tough economic times Red Deer is only just coming out of.
The proposal focuses on community safety and some recreational service hour reductions would result in a two per cent tax increase to Red Deer property owners if approved by council.
Mayor Tara Veer said public safety is the No. 1 priority for Red Deer citizens, and council’s top priority.
The budget recommended by city and RCMP administrators would include spending $778,000 over two years for four more police officers and two civilian assistants. This would bring the number of officers in Red Deer to 165.
Veer wants the new officers dedicated to cracking down on property crime in downtown Red Deer, where repeat break-ins have demoralized many business owners.
City council does have the ability, in its contract with the RCMP, to direct how some of the provided funding is spent. With the “safety challenges” in the downtown, more police attention there is definitely needed, added Veer.
Council will also consider spending $400,000 to clean up used needles and other debris left behind by people who sleep or gather outdoors. Some are addicted, homeless people who have been unable to get into the limited shelter beds in the city.
City Manager Craig Curtis said this debris is causing a significant public concern. At least 50 “rough sleeper camps” have been counted in parks and other areas – a massive increase from the 20 camps of a few years ago.
He believes the opioid crisis and Red Deer’s significant lack of shelter beds are contributing to the problem.
City council approved 20 temporary beds to operate until April 30 in trailers near the Safe Harbour Society mat shelter. This increases the bed count at Safe Harbour to 46.
“But as council said, ‘This is like putting a band-aid on a Band-Aid,’ ” said Curtis, who’s urging the provincial government to step up and assume responsibility for providing a basic human necessity — housing.
Red Deerians will have a chance to provide input in writing on the proposed budget before Dec. 28 at local public libraries, City Hall, the Collicutt Centre or Red Deer Recreation Centre.
Copies of the budget can also be viewed at these locations – or details can also be found online at www.reddeer.ca/budget.
City residents can also email their comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.