Red Deer County passed a “rainy day” budget on Tuesday that holds the line on taxes and cuts no services.
Corporate services director Heather Surkan said the county had faced a year of “unprecedented” challenges shortly before council unanimously passed $56.8 million operating and $42.4 million capital budgets.
A global pandemic, lingering economic downturn and new provincial government measures that reduced the amount rural municipalities received in energy industry taxes combined to make it trickier to balance the budget without raising taxes or reducing services.
Surkan said the county had to pull $14.8 million from reserves set aside for a rainy day for 2021.
Coun. Christine Moore supported the county’s move to tap reserves, which will help cover the cost of the millions to be spent on roads, improving broadband and utility upgrades.
“We are in that rainy day and it’s raining heavily right now,” said Moore.
Mayor Jim Wood said, “This budget is definitely an investment into our future. I think it’s extremely important that Red Deer County continues to grow.”
It is that growth that has allowed the county to hold the line on taxes for a number of years now. Improving the Internet in the county will make it easier in the future for students to study at home, as many have had to during the pandemic.
Boosting capital spending by more than $10 million above last year’s budget makes sense during the current competitive construction climate.
The county expects to spend $47.4 million on infrastructure and roads next year.
Key initiatives for 2021 include:
•$5.3 million for bridges
•$1 million for trails
•$4 million for Internet upgrading
•$8 million for two roundabouts on McKenzie Road
•$2.7 million for road construction on Gasoline Alley’s Lantern Street
•$4 million for utility infrastructure upgrades