A reduction in the hours at Red Deer’s landfill is one of the few service reductions suggested in the 2013 operating budget.
On the third day of the $284-million budget deliberations, city council agreed to close the landfill at 6:30 p.m. an hour earlier in the summer months to save $55,000 a year.
A vote of 5-4 was the closest in the dozen or so items debated during the four-hour council debate.
Councillors Cindy Jefferies, Frank Wong, Buck Buchanan, Lynne Mulder, Tara Veer and Mayor Morris Flewwelling supported cutting the hours.
“I think if there are 10 to 15 people showing up at this time to use the service if we nudge them to an earlier hour it would save a substantial amount of money over the course of the year,” said Coun. Cindy Jefferies. “Sometimes we have to make those tough decisions. Some times we try to reduce lane swimming and to me that would be more important than an hour at the landfill.”
Coun. Dianne Wyntjes did not support the change in service because she said the city prides itself on providing service and she expects there will be pushback from the community.
Coun. Chris Stephan said the landfill is a self-supporting utility and in the end it is not a cost-saving he thought was worth the reduction.
“We know it is used in that hour,” said Stephan. “It may not be the highest used but I am sure we will hear from some of the people who it will affect.”
Stephan said council is looking at its waste management as a whole and there are probably some inefficiencies that can be looked at and there could be more cost savings in the future that does not reduce operational hours.
Council moved quickly through the City Manager, Corporate Services, Development Services and Planning Services budget items.
There were no major changes to the draft budget except for a $5,000 reduction to funding requested by the Red Deer Airport. Administration recommended the one-time funding of $190,550 but council voted to reduce the funding to keep it in line with what council has paid in previous years.
Veer said it’s important to continue to support the airport on one-time funding because of the overall goal of financial sustainablity and independence of the airport.
“I don’t think we’re there yet so we do have to continue to make some provisions,” said Veer.
Some of the initiatives surrounding the downtown were discussed including the feedback on the Ross Street Patio. In the coming months, council may decide to extend the summer time patio experiment to a year-long project.
Veer said she was pleased with the first day of debate. Veer, who is a third-term councillor, said council has to be cautious and mindful of the bigger picture when going through the budget.
“This budget does see some increases in user fees and charges,” said Veer. “I think we often have to be innovative and creative in how we budget and not just rely on user fee increases and tax increases because that is an easy route for us to take.”
Veer said council has to be careful they are not putting future councils in a position where service level are not sustainable.
The budget as it stands projects a 3.91 property tax increase and a 6.5 per cent jump in Electric Light and Power rates. Among the increases are the wastewater rates which may rise to 3.1 per cent and water rates that may rise 3.2 per cent ($2 per tonne increase). Garbage and yard waste collection may go up 1.3 per cent for residential and 5. 2 per cent for multi-family and commercial users. The rate increases will come back to council for a bylaw change once the operating budget is approved.
City council will enter into day four of the budget deliberations on Thursday. Staffing for policing is expected to be a highly debated item.
Other Day 3 budget line items:
• Hiring of a Riverlands Project Manager ($76,000 in 2013; $83,000 in 2014 and $12,000 in 2015) was widely supported by councillors. Coun. Paul Harris said this was a big leap forward in developing the area west of Gaetz Avenue. City Manger Craig Curtis said it was key to the planning and economic future of the city.
• Introduction of a 24/7 Communications phone line that would allow the city to be more connected with residents in event of an emergency. The price tag on the service is $11,000. One person will be on standby to update social media sites including Facebook and Twitter and to send out media releases.
• Visitors to city hall will no longer be offered pop and juice in the meeting rooms. Council agreed to eliminate the drinks for a cost savings of $3,000.
• The Collicutt Centre’s east and west soccer turf will be upgraded a year sooner. City council agreed to amend the 2013 Capital Budget by $111,000 for a total of $211,000 with funds to come from the Capital Projects Reserve fund.