City council trims debt limit by 15%

City council has put a cap on how far the city can go into the red.

City council has put a cap on how far the city can go into the red.

On Monday, council voted 6-1 to reduce the city’s allowable debt limit to 75 per cent from 90 per cent.

Coun. Tanya Handley brought the motion to council after hearing concerns from residents about the city’s debt.

By reducing the limit, Handley said, it gives the city debt room to respond if there is a natural disaster or an emergency.

Handley said this ensures council takes a very close look at spending and when the city uses debt to finance projects.

“It really comes down to showing the community that we are concerned about debt and we are concerned about financial leadership,” said Handley.

The province limits the amount of debt that a municipality can hold. The city has roughly $222 million in long-term debt with a debt ceiling of $501 million.

Most councillors echoed Handley’s sentiments about having the ability to respond to unforeseen circumstances.

Coun. Lynne Mulder, however, said she could not support the motion at this time. Mulder said the motion felt like something pulled out of the air and that it should be discussed around budget time in context with reserves.

“It just doesn’t fit for me right now,” she said. “That’s my reservation. I won’t be able to support it right now.”

Mayor Tara Veer said the change is consistent with the city’s other financial tools including its new capital savings plan.

She said the capital savings plan positions debt as one tool of many to finance infrastructure projects.

“From my view it was perfectly reasonable to reduce the debt cap from 90 per cent to 75 per cent,” said Veer. “I think it is highly responsive to the changes we have in our economy and what we hear from our citizenry.”

In other council news:

lResidents who do not pay their taxes on time may now be hit with penalties twice in a year.

Council gave first reading to a tax penalty bylaw that would restructure the tax penalty dates to apply twice per year. Under the proposed scheme, residents would be charged on July 1 and September 1. Tax arrears would begin as of January 1 of the following year.

Mayor Tara Veer said the previous plan was highly bureaucratic and the penalties were applied every couple of months. Veer said this change is the first of many to come to find administrative efficiencies.

“It also gives citizens more time to plan and to meet those tax requirements and tax penalty requirements,” said Veer.

The 12 per cent annual penalty rate would not change.

Property taxes collected on June 30 are used to fund services from January 1 to Dec. 31.

Over the last two years, 97 per cent of property owners in Red Deer paid taxes owing by June 30 or were enrolled in the tax instalment plan.

The 2015 budgeted penalty revenue is $575,000.

Second and third reading will be before council on July 20. The bylaw will take effect Jan. 1, 2016.

lCoun. Paul Harris read a notice of motion asking the city team up with Red Deer College to call on the province to change the status of RDC to a Polytechnic University. His motion will be debated at council on July 20.

Councillors Dianne Wyntjes and Lawrence Lee were absent on Monday.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The future of Westerner Park continues to be plagued by many unknowns, including when city council will make a decision about financing its operations. (File photo by Advocate staff).
Red Deer city council delays making decision on Westerner Park financing

It will mean missing the next opportunity to apply for a provincial loan

Nineteen-year-old Amanda enjoys a ride during a visit to Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler. photo submitted
Busy days at Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler

The ranch, which launched operations last summer, provides support through animal interaction

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer at the announcement that the city will be getting a drug treatment court Thursday. Jason Luan, associate minister of mental health and addictions, looks on.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Veer concerned about rising COVID-19 cases in Red Deer

The City of Red Deer is reminding citizens to protect themselves against… Continue reading

Rode
Volunteering played major role in RDC awards

Under normal circumstances, the RDC Red Deer Bottling Athlete of the Year… Continue reading

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Thursday that the province has seen its first case of the B.1.617 variant. (Photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer nears record number of active COVID-19 cases

Alberta reports 1,857 new cases of COVID-19, 1,326 new variants

Curtis Labelle (second from left) and his band are planning a cross-Canada tour in 2022. Meanwhile, Labelle is continuing to host his weekly livestreamed talk show, Chattin 88. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer rock pianist takes on a talk show role

Curtis Labelle’s Chattin 88 gets views from around the globe

Taylor Pendrith from Richmond Hill, Ont. salutes the crowd after sinking a birdie on the 18th hole to come in at five under par during first round of play at the Canadian Open golf championship Thursday, July 24, 2014 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
PGA Tour Canada splits into Canadian, American circuits for 20201

PGA Tour Canada splits into Canadian, American circuits for 20201

Like father, like son: Floreal emerges as one of Canada’s top sprinters

Like father, like son: Floreal emerges as one of Canada’s top sprinters

Toronto Blue Jays center fielder George Springer (4) walks on the field during a team workout, Wednesday, March 31, 2021, at Yankee Stadium in New York. The Blue Jays face the New York Yankees on opening day Thursday in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Injured Jays OF Springer to play in intrasquad game Friday

Injured Jays OF Springer to play in intrasquad game Friday

Toronto Raptors' Khem Birch (24) defends against Brooklyn Nets' Blake Griffin during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 21, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Raptors ride strong 3rd quarter to 114-103 win over Nets

Raptors ride strong 3rd quarter to 114-103 win over Nets

Team Canada's Jocelyne Larocque celebrates her goal past the U.S.A. with goaltender Embrace Maschmeyer during first period of Women's Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver, Wednesday, February 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Stunned Canadian players head home after women’s world hockey cancellation

Stunned Canadian players head home after women’s world hockey cancellation

Health Minister Patty Hajdu is shown at a COVID-19 press conference in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Kawai
Health Canada proposes new restrictions on talc in some personal care products

Health Canada proposes new restrictions on talc in some personal care products

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady passes under pressure from Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Alex Okafor during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. Lawmakers are debating legislation to legalize single-event betting as a bill reaches final reading in the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mark Humphrey
Bill on single-game sports betting on cusp of passing — but not for first time

Bill on single-game sports betting on cusp of passing — but not for first time

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
More supply needed to ease housing price crunch, but always more to do, Freeland says

More supply needed to ease housing price crunch, but always more to do, Freeland says

Most Read