Coun. Dianne Wyntjes (Advocate file photo).

Red Deer city council directs administrators to prepare for zero tax increases in 2021 and 2022

Coun. Dianne Wyntjes is alarmed about what this could mean for the city’s future

Red Deerians can expect zero per cent tax increases in 2021 and 2022, according to city council’s directive to administration.

Coun. Dianne Wyntjes noted this will amount to having less-than-zero per cent tax increases in the next two years, as council is still putting half a per cent (or about $650,000) of the operating budget aside annually towards capital projects.

She expressed alarm at opting for so much belt-tightening on the spur of the moment Monday.

Chief financial officer Dean Krejci hadn’t suggested making quite as deep cuts.

After considering revenue losses due to the poor economy and the pandemic, Krejci came up with an austere multi-year budget proposal that highlighted finding $20 million in cost savings.

Krejci recommended property taxes go up half a per cent in 2021 and 2022, which would allow the 0.5 per cent to go towards future capital projects.

Instead, councillors Michael Dawe and Tanya Handley suggested an amendment for the two zero per cent tax increases in 2021 and 2022, as well as administration putting aside $650,000 annually towards capital reserves.

Dawe said this would put the city in a good position to capitalize on any new building projects that the province makes available to municipalities, which would require matching grants.

An impassioned Wyntjes — the only councillor to vote against this amendment — told her council peers they are doing a disservice to administration by coming up with this tax freeze amendment out of the blue.

Council has no solid knowledge of what the city’s financial position will be next year, she explained, or whether other levels of government would offer any financial relief to municipalities hit hard by the pandemic.

Such an impactful change should have been discussed at recent workshops with the city manager, said Wyntjes — before it was suggested in reaction to an earlier unsuccessful austerity move attempted by Coun. Vesna Higham.

“We don’t know the significance of the change we made today,” added Wyntjes, who noted the city’s finances are in a state of flux, with revenues down due to virus reduction measures, and utility and tax deferrals.

While many residents and some businesses would appreciate a tax break, several councillors suggested they might not like what this will mean for city services, including road maintenance and snow removal.

“There are always repercussions,” said Wyntjes — whether it will be staff cuts, a reduction of recreation centre or library hours, transit changes, or less money for agency requests.

Noting that city manager Allan Seabrooke previously stated that zero tax increases were not favourable because they were unsustainable, she said it’s council’s job to protect the city’s future.

While others on council felt the municipality could shoulder a zero per cent tax increase for a couple of years, they still acknowledged strain will be felt.

Coun. Lawrence Lee predicted the city will be challenged to maintain its payroll commitments to unions and staff associations.

Every funding request that comes before council in 2021 and 2022 — “whether grass is mowed on a berm, or if (residents) wish the recreation centre to stay open longer” — will be considered in context of what difference it makes to the bottom line, said Lee.

Coun. Buck Buchanan referred to the years of high tax increases that followed a series of tax freezes in the 1990s as the city scrambled to shore up neglected infrastructure.

“You can pay now or you can pay later,” he said.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Red Deer City Council

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

Just Posted

Artist Nathan Scott’s The Face-off is one of Red Deer’s most recent public artworks. It was installed at Servus Arena. (Advocate file photo.)
Red Deer city council opts to leave public art selection to a commission

Only projects costing at least $1 million will now trigger art component

Red Deer City Coun. Michael Dawe spoke up about an attempted break-in at his home during a city council meeting that discussed policing priorities. (Advocate file photo).
All crimes should be reported, says Red Deer’s RCMP superintendent

Policing priorities are cracking down on property and drug crimes

The number of active cases of COVID-19 in the province sat at 4,477 Monday afternoon, up 826 from Friday’s 3,651, said Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw. File photo
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up Monday

Alberta reported 1,440 new COVID-19 cases on Monday from over the weekend,… Continue reading

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Three Red Deer based dealerships have donated $10,000 to various local organizations including the food bank. (File Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Three Red Deer car dealerships help organizations in need

Three Red Deer automobile dealerships have come together to donate $10,000 to… Continue reading

“Our members have decided they just can’t do this anymore. We’ve protected this province and you’ve treated us like dirt, so enough is enough,” says AUPE vice-president Bonnie Gostola, whose members protested outside the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre on Momday. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Updated: Hospital workers strike in Red Deer

Some surgeries and ambulatory care clinics postponed around the province

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre could be affected by cuts to Alberta Health Services announced by the government Tuesday. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
David Marsden: Yes, we know how to do laundry

Union leaders would have us believe there’s something special about their members:… Continue reading

Los Angeles Rams cornerback Troy Hill (22) tips a pass in the end zone intended for Chicago Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney (11) during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. The ball was caught by Rams safety Taylor Rapp, behind, for a touchback. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis )
Rams dominate matchup of tough defences, beat Bears 24-10

Rams dominate matchup of tough defences, beat Bears 24-10

Matthew Raymond, charged with four counts of first degree murder, is taken from provincial court in Fredericton, N.B., on December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Mother of Fredericton shooter says she often advised him to see a doctor for help

Mother of Fredericton shooter says she often advised him to see a doctor for help

PM says budget update won’t have fiscal anchor, suggests one coming after crisis over

PM says budget update won’t have fiscal anchor, suggests one coming after crisis over

Saskatchewan Party Leader Scott Moe speaks during a press conference in south Regina on Wednesday Oct. 21, 2020. Moe will appear at a car rally with supporters this afternoon outside of Regina.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Bell
Four Moe Years: Scott Moe and Saskatchewan Party defeat NDP for 4th straight majority

Four Moe Years: Scott Moe and Saskatchewan Party defeat NDP for 4th straight majority

Bayern's Alphonso Davies controls the ball during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany on February 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matthias Schrader
Canadian star Alphonso Davies could be out for two months after injuring ankle

Canadian star Alphonso Davies could be out for two months after injuring ankle

B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts owner, Senator David Braley speaks after the CFL announced Vancouver will host the 2014 Grey Cup championship football game during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday March 8, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
David Braley, owner of three Canadian Football League franchises, dead at 79

David Braley, owner of three Canadian Football League franchises, dead at 79

Most Read