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Red Deer city councillors suggest changes to snow plowing, EMS hires and other budget items

Debate on these resolutions starts on Thursday
Changes to how the city does, and charges for, snow plowing will be debated by Red Deer city council as part of the 2023-24 budget process. (Advocate file photo).

Coun. Vesna Higham wants $40 million for a new aquatic centre project added to the city’s 10-year capital plan over three consecutive years.

Coun. Victor Doerksen proposes snow plowing costs be charged to people monthly, just like a utility bill, while Coun. Lawrence Lee wants longer hours snow-clearing hours to get the job done quicker in residential areas.

Coun. Dianne Wyntjes urges that transit schedules to be redone to improve hours of service to large employers, such as Olymel and Parkland Mall, to boost public use of buses.

These are a few of the 25 resolutions Red Deer city councillors put forward in an effort to rejig funding and service levels in the proposed multi-year budget to boost spending in higher priority area, while reducing dollars in others.

Adding 10 more fire/medics to Red Deer Emergency Medical Services over the next two years (eight in 2023 and two in 2024), as proposed for 2023-24, did not sit well with several councillors who put forward resolutions to exceed that number.

Wyntjes and Councillors Higham and Cindy Jefferies want to know the costs and impacts of adding two to four more fire/medics to the budget.

Regarding Red Deer city council’s self-imposed debt-limit, which is at 75 per cent of provincial guidelines, Jefferies suggests raising it to align with the province’s to make some capacity for future use.

Coun. Kraymer Barnstable suggests eliminating the $113,000 proposed for maintaining a hybrid workforce (some in office work and some at-home work) for 2024.

He also wants administration to explore increasing user fees and taxes (excluding transit) to increase tax-supported operations by $1- to 3-million, and to half the tree replacement budget to from a proposed $153,000 per year for 2023 and 2024.

Mayor Ken Johnston wants city administration to explore research on waste disposal energy opportunities — and to also look at ways of reducing the overall operating budget by one per cent, or about $4 million.

Meanwhile, Red Deer Regional Airport is asking the City of Red Deer for about $1.6 million dollars in 2023 and 2024 to help sustain its ongoing operations, and to help with several capital improvement projects.

Operating funding of $371,000 is being sought from the city for both 2023 and 2024. Council was told this would sustain on-going operations of the airport until its revenues increase. These funds are to help cover day-to-day expenses as well as oversight of capital projects.

A capital funding request of $1.37 million in 2023 and $1.3 in 2024 is also being requested to rehabilitate the airport’s Apron 2 which is causing safety concerns because of disrepair. This rehab project would be for over three years, so additional funds would also be needed in 2025.

City administration recommended council approve this airport funding in the proposed budget as it would then be matched by Red Deer County.

These matters will be voted on starting Thursday, as the streamlined multi-year budget process continues.