Red Deer Mayor Ken Johnston is calling the Alberta Budget 2023-2024 a ‘good news budget’. The Mayor provided his comments on the budget during a press conference on March 1st.
The budget has a couple of notable investments for the Red Deer area. Here’s a look:
Red Deer Regional Hospital
Red Deer’s hospital will see a $320.6 million investment over the next two years which is assumed to the beginning of the $1.8 billion investment announcement in 2022. The hospitals completion date is set for 2030.
Mayor Johnston is hopeful to see the hospital’s timeline as a feature in this year’s budget and is confident in the follow through.
“I would be the first one to throw a tremendous party if that hospital got constructed before 2030. But at least that's the timeline that we have. It's reinforced in the budget... I look forward to putting a shovel in the ground circuit, 2024-2025, once the design stages are completed. I would love to be one of the people in that photograph. This is an emotional issue for me and I'm very connected to it,” said Ken Johnston.
Red Deer Regional Airport
An investment in the Red Deer Regional Airport was another major highlight of Budget 2023-2024. $30 million dollars has been committed to the local airport’s expansion.
“There's opportunity there to continue to attract what I would call the low-cost barriers and so on. Certainly, the announcement made I think a week or two ago that Flair is going to be providing flights to Mexico and so on [is encouraging]... When I spoke with the Chamber today, the opportunity for logistical impact to the airport, meaning more freight, the ability to move freight quicker, and to close those gaps in supply chain. If COVID had taught us anything it's how precious and how fragile that supply chain can be. When we look at the ability to bring in the Red Deer Region as a center of logistics and at the center of logistical support that to me is a tremendous opportunity for the airport,” explained Johnston.
Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI)
Red Deer’s Municipal Sustainability initiative operating grant will be doubling for a one-time increase in 2023-2024. The City has budgeted approximately $700,000 and is expecting to see $1.4 million. The change will mean an adjustment to the City of Red Deer’s approved 2024 Operating Budget. The one-time increase may result in an increase to a year-end operating surplus which is transferred to the City’s Operating Reserve –Tax Support (ORTS) in 2024.
The MSI capital grant will remain the same but the program will transition to the new Local Government Fiscal Framework 2024-2025 and is expected to increase
Property tax and education requisition
Red Deer will also see a reduction in the education requisition from property owners of 2.36 percent. The reduction in education property tax will be combined with the 4.61 per cent municipal increase for the 2023 property tax notices.
The overall property tax increase will be finalized when the Tax Rate Bylaw is approved by Council in April. In 2023, The City will collect $43.4 million on behalf of the provincial government to fund education through property taxes.
The Government of Alberta has also committed to supporting Red Deer’s integrated emergency shelter and the Justice Centre with maintained funding.
“Council is going into discussions on how we close the gaps in affordable housing and permanent supportive housing in our community. We need to win in the housing space if we're ever going to have sustainable shelters and equitable social amenities for people. There’s some investments on that particular part of the agenda I’d like to see a few more details on,” said Johnston.
With any election budget, a bit of extra funding can be expected. As we head to the polls in May, Johnston hopes Red Deerians and Albertans consider how their politicians plan to diversify the economy.
“ I would certainly encourage the province of Alberta to continue to invest in those areas that lessen our dependence on that $75-$85 barrel of oil and really have an economy that’s diversified enough to be sustainable in an energy downturn,” explained Johnson.
However, the Mayor believes Budget 2023-2024 brings a lot of opportunities for central Albertans.
“It's a good news budget I think for our city. I think it demonstrates the provinces commitment to central Alberta specifically. With the city of Red Deer itself, I will say this: I'm encouraged when I see some of the policing grants increased and encouraged when the libraries get a boost. Libraries are central to literacy and to newcomers in our city rapidly getting into language skills and so on. This really made me quite happy. Family and Community Support Services are being increased. Legal Aid is being increased. Those are things that that enable particularly what I would call challenge or disenfranchised Albertans to be able to participate fully in the economy that we join now. I think it’s a great day for Red Deer and a great day for central Alberta,” added Johnston.
This article was written with files from the City of Red Deer.