Red Deer city council to debate $106.7-million capital budget

Starting Tuesday city council will debate the 2017 proposed $106.75-million capital budget.

Two days have been set aside for council to debate spending on major projects such as street work, road maintenace, new facilities and new initiatives.

In October, city administration tabled the budget that had already been cut by $26 million to adjust to the challenging economy and reduced growth in Red Deer.

Red Deer’s economy contracted by 2.1 per cent in 2015 following an average growth rate of 4.45 per cent between 2010 and 2014.

The economy is projected to shrink by an additional .8 per cent this year before starting to recover with a moderate gain of 1.4 per cent in 2017

Employment is expected to fall by 3.3 per cent this year to increase the unemployment rate to 7.2 per cent. With moderate growth in 2017, the unemployment rate is projected to reduce by 7.0 per cent

Housing starts fell by 20 per cent in 2015 and are forecast to fall a further 13 per cent this year before stabilizing in 2017.

Some capital projects have been deferred, the biggest being the North Highway Connector along 20th Avenue, which will ultimately include a new bridge across Red Deer River and one across the railway line along Hwy 11A.

Construction was scheduled to begin in 2019, but has now been postponed by about three years.

Meanwhile, the first phase of development of the area south of Red Deer College was to move ahead and will join up to the new QEII/Gaetz Avenue interchange. The area will eventually have big box commercial development, residential and will add to the city’s park system.

Ongoing development related the 2019 Canada Winter Games also continues like the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre at RDC, the QEII and Gaetz Avenue interchange, and others.

The 2017 capital budget deliberations begin at 9 a.m. today and on Wednesday.

szielinski@www.reddeeradvocate.com

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