Red Deer city council is one step closer to establishing its municipal property tax rates for 2014.
Council gave first reading to a property tax rate bylaw that imposes a 3.87 per cent increase across the board for all property classifications on Monday.
The combined tax increase needed to fund the Alberta Education and Piper Creek Foundation requisitions and municipal tax requirements would result in a total tax increase of 2.01 per cent for residential property; 1.73 per cent for multi-family property and 2.43 per cent for non-residential property.
Council will consider second and third reading of the bylaw at a special meeting on May 6.
Mayor Tara Veer said Red Deer has tried to increase its competitive advantage for businesses and residents.
She said the city needs to find the right balance between the two. Veer said the city does not have a business tax or machinery tax like other cities in Alberta.
“I think this accomplishes the right balance,” said Veer.
“What it says is that we are a business friendly community . . . . but we also want people to be able to afford to live here as well so they choose Red Deer.”
This year an owner of an average residential property assessed at $300,000 could pay $4.12 more each month bringing the annual tax bill to $2,607 from 2,550.
“As a city we continue to provide services in reflection of what we hear from the community,” said Coun. Lawrence Lee. “I think we have done that in our past budget deliberations . . . I think administration has put together a plan that reflects where we want this city to go and how we want it to progress.”
In other council news:
— The City of Red Deer has its financial house in order.
Auditors Robyn Eeson and Sallie Klein from KPMG LLP presented the city’s 2013 annual financial report to council.
“We had no concerns,” said Eeson “There was nothing that caused us to qualify our opinion so we were very pleased.”
The auditor’s report noted there will be financial operating and capital risks in the future because of provincial cuts to municipalities.
The audit was conducted in March and its findings were presented to the audit committee last week.
Eeson said six items were brought to the attention of the committee and the city. Three were the results of adjustments to the 2013 statements and three were for information or for consideration in future years.
Chief Financial Officer Dean Krejci said the city is in great financial shape.
“Overall we have seen improvement in our financial indicators,” said Krejci. “Our debt limit is reduced. Our reserves have increased. We have definitely improved our financial condition over the previous year.”
The city’s financial statements must be submitted to the province by May 1. The city’s audit committee is expect to bring a three-year work plan to council in June.
— A new annual publication highlighting the city projects, programs and events was revealed at council. The 2013 annual report ending Dec. 31, 2013, also takes a look at the city’s financial position in 2013. The report is available online at www.reddeer.ca
— Coun. Buck Buchanan wants to make Red Deer more “age friendly” for all residents. According to the World Health Organization, “an age-friendly community is one where policies, services, settings and structures support and enable people to age actively.”
Buchanan read a notice of motion calling on the city to review age-friendly initiatives already in place and to develop further strategies. Council will consider the motion at its May 12th meeting.