City officials are bracing for tough times ahead as the number crunching begins in preparation for the 2017 budgets.
At open house on Tuesday, City Manager Craig Curtis said the city is projecting a significant loss in growth revenue. It is also dealing with the uncertainty of the carbon tax levy.
“We rely on assessment growth every year and that grows as the city grows,” said Curtis. “In a really good year we will have $2.5 million in revenue. We anticipate it will be $1 million or less in new revenue. That has a significant impact on our projections for next year.”
Mayor Tara Veer said city administration and council will be faced with a balancing act.
“We need to move the community forward because we are still growing but we need to do that in a very affordable way,” said Veer. “Sometimes you are faced with more difficult choices of what is a ‘yes’, what is a ‘no’ and what is a ‘not yet’.”
The uncertain provincial climate and the carbon tax levy will come into play, said Veer.
“It could shift the city’s budget one way or other,” she said. “Our preliminary estimates indicate between two and four per cent for the City of Red Deer alone on carbon levy. When you consider that council’s preliminary budget guideline for 2017 is 2.5 per cent, of which one per cent for capital savings, that only leaves 1.5 per cent for operational growth. If the carbon levy is applied we would not be in a position to even accommodate that preliminary guidelines.”
But Veer said she is pleased that council took a position on the carbon levy, which is that it should be revenue neutral for municipalities. She is optimistic it will catch the province’s attention.
“We want to know what the community values,” said Curtis. “We don’t have much capacity to add services. There may in fact be some services, which the community feels may be reduced.”
The open house at Festival Hall was the first forum for the city to gather information from residents on how they would like to see the tax dollars spent. Early next month the city’s new budget bus will stop at specific locations to allow more to provide input into the budgets.
Resident Dave Schurman attended the meeting to give positive feedback on last winter’s snow clearing campaign. Schurman, who is a regular at the budget open houses, wanted to find out more about the changes to the 67th Street and 30th Avenue intersection. He was also interested in learning more about the small bus pilot.