Cuts will be made to Red Deer’s recreation and transit services this spring to help balance the 2019 city budget.
Faced with sharply falling revenues, Red Deer city council reluctantly approved service reductions to the Collicutt Centre and Dawe Centre, as well as to public transit routes on Sundays and holidays.
As of April 1, the two city recreation centres will close one hour earlier, at 9 instead of 10 p.m., from Mondays through Saturdays to save nearly $113,o00.
This includes public hours for the pools, gyms and the track. It does not include the private rental of rinks or other facilities.
Starting May 1, Red Deer transit buses will run less frequently on Sundays and during statutory holidays. There will be a one-hour wait between bus arrivals instead of the previous half hour. This provides a savings of about $650,000.
Coun. Buck Buchanan expressed reservations about the “disenfranchised minority” who would suffer — especially by less frequent bus runs.
But city council and administration felt it necessary to take action to reduce bottom-line costs at a time when city revenues are down significantly in recreation as well as transit.
“Are we going to please everyone? No,” summarized Coun. Vesna Higham. But she added the decision attempts to strike a balance between what the city offers and what it can afford.
The decisions were based on usage.
The city has heard complaints from the public about buses running empty in the evenings and on holidays. While Red Deer’s entire transit system is being overhauled over the next year or so, these savings were enacted to try to keep the city’s 2019 tax increase at no more than 2.5 per cent.
City manager Craig Curtis recommended the non-peak hour reductions, saying they were a reasonable way to “recognize decreased revenue generation.”
Council was unanimous in voting for less frequent bus service on Sundays and holidays after hearing that few riders would be affected.
The Sundays and holiday reduction will affect six to seven customers counted per route, per 30 minutes. Lengthening the bus frequency to one hour will still mean fewer people will be on the buses than the 15 passenger per hour guideline.
Administration acknowledged that this could impact connections to Red Deer County’s contracted bus service to and from Bower Mall.
Mayor Tara Veer was the only one who voted against the recreation hour reductions, voicing concerns about adult lane swimming being affected. She was told staff would look at rescheduling this.