Red Deer city council begins reviewing a $264-million operating budget today that proposes an average tax increase of 3.74 per cent for local residents.
Based on that number, the owner of a home assessed at $280,000 can expect to pay $1,566.12, up $56.52 from last year.
Taxes aren’t the only bills going up. Residents can also expect to feel the sting of a nine per cent increase in their water, wastewater, recycling and garbage collection bill. Electricity rates would go up 5.4 per cent.
Council will begin reviewing department budgets today and continue through the week.
Mayor Morris Flewwelling doubts there will be significant changes to the budget, which has already been reviewed by staff and the city manager and significant cuts have been made already. If all department requests had been recommended by senior managers, the $7.6 million cost would have required a 13 per cent tax increase.
Further budget trimming would mean reducing service levels and delaying maintenance on city facilities.
“Council will have a difficult time lowering the (proposed tax increase) number,” said Flewwelling during a budget preview on Tuesday morning. “They will also have difficulty increasing the number.”
The $264-million budget has been designed to maintain services — or boost services in the case of snow removal.
Flewwelling said the message was loud and clear from residents that they wanted more plowing and sanding.
“I think the average homeowner will not notice any reduction in services levels that will affect them directly.”
City manager Craig Curtis said the budget reflects economic reality. A slower-than-expected recovery has shown up at the municipal level with lower taxation growth, and fewer revenues from development and other sources.
“One of the themes of this budget is reacting to the fact we have much lower revenue in a number of areas,” he said.
In 2009, the city raised an additional $2.45 million in revenue connected to growth. In 2011, that number is projected at $900,000.
At the same time, the city is seeing an $850,000 increase in the amount if spends on policing, which cost $15.1 million last year. Transit is also looking for another $235,000 and the library wants $119,000. Maintaining new parks will also add another $96,000 to the budget.
A number of cuts have been proposed to the bottom line.
Nearly $270,000 will be saved by not filling three vacant jobs and eliminating the $5 landfill coupons will save $60,000.
Reducing hours of recreation centres on holidays and low-use days and closing them at 9 p.m. on Sundays would save $66,900.
Closing four snow bank rinks would save $18,000 and eliminating a tax pre-payment program would trim $7,000 from the budget.