Modest property tax increase expected

Red Deer residents can expect a modest increase to their total property tax bills in 2015 despite a belt-tightening economy.

Red Deer residents can expect a modest increase to their total property tax bills in 2015 despite a belt-tightening economy.

Council gave first reading to a property tax bylaw that sets the municipal tax rate as 3.75 per cent when combined with Alberta Education and Piper Creek Foundation requisitions on Monday.

On an average home assessed at $325,000 in 2015, the owner would pay $2,703 in taxes compared to $2,606 in 2014 or $97 more annually.

Council also adopted an updated $327.2 million operating budget.

In January, council adopted an interim budget with plans to revisit it after the provincial budget was tabled.

Mayor Tara Veer said since the interim operating budget was adopted there has been substantial changes in the local economy.

Last spring council began grappling with an estimated 4.31 per cent increase and eventually landed with a 3.73 per cent tax increase on the municipal side for residential, non-residential and multi-family properties.

Veer said council made reasonable progress in arriving at a number that would move the community forward in a way that was respectful to the local economy.

Council heard the impacts of the provincial budget on the city’s books.

Dean Krejci, the city’s chief financial officer, said because the province eliminated some social housing grants, the city lost $190,000 in revenue. The city will have to pay roughly $105,000 more for fleet operations due to the increase in fuel surtaxes. Land title search fees also went up, putting the city on the hook for an estimated $24,000 more.

However, the city will receive $670,941 in Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding, $311,941 more than recognized in the operating budget. He said this ultimately offset the provincial budget impacts.

Krejci said the changes amounted to about $7,059 after factoring in the boost to MSI funding.

Veer said the city would likely have been in a position that called for adding to the tax levy had it not been for the MSI allocation.

City Manager Craig Curtis said there is no indication from the province that MSI funding will be available for municipalities beyond 2015/2016.

Curtis said the city will be in the same position next year wondering what will happen with the grants.

Overall in 2015, the city will collect $161.9 million in tax revenue, of which $119.8 million going to municipal services and programs and $41.8 million for Alberta Education and $167,000 for the Piper Creek Foundation.

For multi-family property the tax rate comes in at 3.23 per cent, and 3.41 for non-residential property when combined with the provincial requisitions.

A mid-year budget review is scheduled for August.

Final readings of the tax rate bylaw are slated for April 27.

Property tax notices will be sent out on May 27 and taxes will be due on June 30.

In other council news:

lCoun. Buck Buchanan will take an unpaid leave of absence to make a run for provincial office. As required under the Municipal Government Act, council approved his leave.

Last week Buchanan declared he will run as a Wildrose candidate in Red Deer North in the upcoming general election after failing to get the PC nod on March 21. The third-term councillor is excused from his council duties up to and including May 5.

lRed Deer Airport will receive $235,000, a $50,000 boost in operating grants each year in its three-year contract with the city.

A one-time maintenance grant of $125,000 was also approved.

Council reasoned the boost to the funding was money well spent and in the best interests of the city.

Coun. Lawrence Lee said the airport is an economic driver for the region.

He said this was highlighted in the city’s successful bid to host the Canada Winter Games in 2019.

The money will allow the airport to meet its 2015 maintenance requirements and hire more staff to reduce overtime hours. The airport recently completed its master plan which identified a number of maintenance needs that require immediate attendance.

The additional city funds are subject to matching funds from Red Deer County.

The three-year contract will be revisited in 2018.

l More changes are coming to Taylor Drive. Council approved disposition of city-owned land at 4924 Taylor Drive and rezoning to Direct Control District 21 from P1 (Parks and Recreation District).

The change will allow for a new road and intersection along the south side of Carnival Cinemas as envisioned in the Riverlands Area Redevelopment Plan. Councillors Frank Wong and Tanya Handley voted against the change. Handley said she doesn’t feel the location is a good spot for another intersection.