Using a mix of social and traditional media, the City of Red Deer pulled out all the stops to fill the 2015 budget open house on Wednesday.
The four-hour open house saw 225 people file through the doors at Festival Hall. Last year’s event drew about 15 people.
The open house gave residents a chance to have their say on where they would like their tax dollars to go in the next budget. In its push to put together a list of community-driven amenities, the city invited residents to name their priorities.
“In the future, I would love to see better public transit,” said Karli Kendall. “Personally it doesn’t quite work for me right now. I’ve tried it. It’s just not timely enough. I’d love to able to support more local businesses.”
Kendall said the shopping is very heavy on the south end and she would like to see more opportunity to support local businesses in downtown Red Deer. She would like to see more arts and culture events in the city.
Kendall came to meet city council and to learn about roads, infrastructure, parks, culture and development in the city. She said she wanted to voice her vote on her priorities.
Residents had face time with city staffers and council.
Malcolm Inglis said he showed up to find out what happens at City Hall. Inglis said he hasn’t been interested in city politics but he is concerned because taxes are going up every year. He said the city is spending money on unnecessary things like bike lanes, traffic circles and under-used rinks.
“I think the city should be like a janitor,” said Inglis. “Look after the city. That’s what we pay you for. We want streets, roads and police and fire protection … those are the types of things we want. We’re getting a whole bunch of crap on top of that we do not want and that we do not need.”
Inglis said he would like the city to hold the line on or reduce taxes.
Sheila McNamee, 61, said she was very interested in how the city uses land as it continues to grow. She appreciated the easy to understand format of open house which included brightly coloured signs, surveys and diagrams.
“We get to say I want more of this, less of this which is a lot easier than saying $5 million on this or 10 per cent on this,” said McNamee. “I am interested in my city. I love my city. I have been here for 40 years. It’s not talking heads. I get to talk to who I want to.”
The community amenities and budget surveys will help guide council when it makes decisions about the 2015 budgets.
Mayor Tara Veer said they were thrilled with the turnout for the open house, which included a cross-section of the community. Veer said having all citizens in mind is important when they plan the future of the city.
City manager Craig Curtis said they advertised in every way possible to bring the crowds so council has as much information as possible before the budget decisions are made.
“We often get more reaction after the budget,” said Curtis. “And that takes another year to get into the stream. We’re making a real effort as part of our strategic direction to have better engagement.”
Residents who did not attend the open house are invited to fill out budget and amenity surveys on the city’s website starting on Monday.
As well, the city’s Ipsos Reid survey on Red Deer will be available in the next few weeks.