The Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce reviewed the proposed 2024 City Operating and Capital Budgets and have concluded that the City’s growth in expenditures are unsustainable. The Chamber believes the budget will have significant impacts on the Business Community. 

The Chamber would like to commend The City of Red Deer for its efforts to provide transparency and accountability with the 2024 Amended Operating & Capital Budget Report released on January 8, 2024.   The information provided gives a solid overview of the current operations of the organization. The Chamber was provided an opportunity for direct consultation with the City on this budget and the opportunity to provide our views before final council deliberations is welcomed and appreciated.  

“We are glad to provide feedback from our members on behalf of Red Deer’s business community through our consultation on the City’s amended 2024 budget,” says Chamber CEO Scott Robinson. “Our response to the City centers on the need for smart financial decision-making and recognition of the impact of the continued tax burden in the current economic environment.  We are asking the City to assess overall spending and the resultant substantial tax increases that are significantly above the rate of inflation.  The City needs to look for opportunities to decrease costs and to determine priority areas for spending.  Passing on the costs for unchecked growth of the City’s budget to businesses is simply not sustainable”. 

The proposal of $488.3 M in operating and $117.3 M in capital for 2024 includes options for a 6.15%, 8.55%, and 13.86% tax rate increase.  These options represent an increase in overall spending from the 2023 approved budget of 9.5% ($31 M) and do not include any reductions to service levels or projects. 

“After review of the report, the City intends to increase spending substantially without providing any review or consideration for a reduction in services or outsourcing to reduce costs,” remarked Robinson. “While it is important to acknowledge the impact of inflation, higher costs, and reductions in grants from other levels of government, these circumstances should trigger the City to look at cost reduction opportunities not just tax and/or fee increases. We expect the City to complete a prioritization of services and in turn make changes to operations that will decrease expenses.  We need to keep the cost of doing business competitive and protect our local economy.  Tax rate increases at this level will certainly have negative consequences for business, but our real concern is a lack of planning for change.”  

The following recommendations were included in the Chamber’s response to the City:  

  • Minimize Tax Rates – Tax increases should remain in line with inflation. 

  • Review User Pay Revenue – Review the rates of fees and fines to ensure that fees are in line with the fixed cost increases of services and facilities.  

  • Prioritize City Services and Outsourced Service Delivery – Engage an external consultant to analyze core City services and identify opportunities for outsourcing and/or private sector delivery.  

  • Create Opportunities for Flexibility – Consider delay or reductions to the scope of activities to future years. 

  • Economic Growth for the City – Re-evaluate Economic Development Activities. 

“We look forward to working with City Council and administration in identifying opportunities for sustainable City operations in the coming years and to ensure that Red Deer is a community with the infrastructure and services that position Red Deer competitively as a vibrant business community," said CEO Scott Robinson. 

The City of Red Deer's amended budget deliberations are set to begin on Tuesday, January 23.