Red Deer city council tries to find more cost-savings

Many spending proposals are queried, discussed

From mulling over economic partnerships to debating museum funding — Red Deer city council did a near line-by-line examination of budget items to try to find cost-savings Monday.

Coun. Lawrence Lee suggested Red Deer not renew its membership in the Central Alberta Economic Partnership to save $40,167 in 2018. He noted council had discussed pulling out of CAEP before the last election, and should now follow through.

He also suggested removing the $25,000 proposed for downtown safety initiatives from the Downtown Community Development Committee. Since the Downtown Business Association and other groups are already working in the city’s centre, he suggested giving them more money, possibly avoiding duplication.

Coun. Vesna Higham questioned why a $100,000 reserve fund had to be established for the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery in order for the MAG to apply for a $25,000 annual grant from the Alberta Foundation of the Arts. Higham suggested it would make more sense to give the museum $25,000 a year and avoid tying up the other $75,000.

Funding requests for all three items were extensively discussed, before eventually being restored by council.

Council resolved to keep Red Deer’s membership in CAEP for at least 2018. Red Deer is the hub of a large region, and it should have a seat at the table where regional issues are discussed, said Coun. Michael Dawe.

As for the Downtown Community Development Committee, it was called a unique combination of non-profit groups and businesses banding together to make improvements to reduce crime and increase public safety, said Sarah Cockerill, the city’s director of community services.

Some of the committee’s original ideas including the Art Alley murals, and the utility boxes shrink-wrapped with art. “I think we would lose an opportunity by neutering their efforts,” summarized Coun. Ken Johnston.

City Manager Craig Curtis noted without the museum reserve fund, MAG could not attain a provincial grant.

While the AFA wanted the reserve established, nudging groups such as MAG towards looking at fundraising ideas instead of relying on the AFA grant, Coun. Frank Wong noted successful fundraisers are extremely difficult to launch in this difficult economy.

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