Red Deer courthouse expansion, more stable funding for municipalities on Veer’s wishlist

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer to attend 2017 provincial budget announcement in Edmonton

Greater funding stability for municipalities and money for a larger courthouse are the two main things the City of Red Deer is looking for in Thursday’s provincial budget.

“Both of these issues have been top of mind for many years,” said Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer, in a media release on Wednesday.

City council has been lobbying for an expanded courthouse to speed up legal processes and look after the safety and security of citizens. With Red Deer’s increasing population, this is needed more than ever, said Veer.

With police focused on serious crimes, a larger courthouse would mean more cases can be heard, and more charges potentially upheld.

The municipality also wants the provincial government to commit to more stable municipal funding, so the city knows where it stands, financially, over the next few years and can move ahead with much needed programs and infrastructure projects.

“It is unreasonable to expect municipalities to effectively build sustainable budgets, when the province continues to download (its) financial shortfalls onto municipalities, and subsequently, citizens,” said City Manager Craig Curtis.

If funds to municipalities are reduced, it would force the city to revisit its 2017 budget to find savings, Curtis added.

While the province is not expected to announce any new funding to alleviate the impact of the carbon levy on municipalities, they did commit to making progress on Alberta’s capital plan — which is good news, since more local infrastructure dollars are needed to meet this growing city’s needs, said Veer.

“We remain hopeful that the province will recognize the role it can play in providing stability to business, residents and communities.”

The city is also pushing to remove the education requisition from citizen’s annual property taxes, and instead collect it directly by the province. Right now, as the educational requisition increases, so do property taxes in Red Deer, and Veer believes this gives citizens the wrong impression.

The city is also looking for money in the budget for a local detox facility, affordable housing, and other social initiatives. It supports Red Deer College gaining polytechnic university status, Red Deer Regional Hospital meeting its growth needs, and local programs encouraging entrepreneurship.

Veer will attend the provincial budget announcement in legislature Thursday. She hopes it acknowledges “the importance of balancing investment in infrastructure with the need to minimize the overall tax impact to all Albertans, at a time when we are all feeling the pressure of a struggling economy.”

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