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City of Red Deer

City council approves budget – property tax increase of 6.15%

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2024 amended budget approved

(Thursday), Council finished deliberating an amended 2024 operating and capital budget, after three days of deliberations. The updated approved budget includes an increase in tax revenues of $9.3 million which is approximately a 6.15 per cent municipal property tax increase.  

“This is, without question, one of the more challenging budgets I have been part of in my time on Council,” said Mayor Ken Johnston. “Over the last two days, we have had difficult conversations and in-depth debate on how to best situate our community for growth and success in a financially responsible way. Today, City Council approved a budget that aims to strike a balance – a budget that considers the tax impact at a time when inflation is significantly affecting both our citizens and the City, while continuing to invest in the programs and services our citizens need and expect in Red Deer.” 

A 6.15 per cent municipal tax increase for 2024 does not mean that each individual property tax bill will change by that amount; the final amount will be determined once requisitions are provided to The City in the spring. Individual property taxes may be lower, higher, or about the same based on how an individual property is assessed. Properties that experience a change in value below the average will see an increase that is below the average, while properties that experience a change in value above the average change will see an increase that is above the average.

“My Council colleagues and I keenly aware that any increase in costs impacts our residents, especially given today’s economic climate; however, the increased property tax increase is critical in order to ensure we can continue providing the services that keep our city running,” said Mayor Johnston.  

The approved increase of 6.15 per cent in 2024 equates to an additional $9.3 million in municipal tax revenue. In relation to a typical home assessed at $345,000 in Red Deer, this would equal a municipal property tax increase of $154.63 per year, $12.89 per month, or an average weekly increase of $2.97 towards the services Red Deerians rely on each day.  

The City of Red Deer’s budget covers the essential services residents use every day. This includes everything from the roads we drive on, the water we drink, the streetlights that guide our way, the recreation facilities we enjoy, and emergency services and municipal police who keep us safe and healthy.  

“The budget approved by City Council today considers the many external pressures we as a municipality face during times of higher costs, slower recovery, and reduced revenues. And we know we are not alone in this; we know we have citizens and businesses in our community who face these same pressures,” said City Manager Tara Lodewyk. “Administration provided a transparent and honest picture of our financial situation and the work ahead to change our path before it is unmanageable. City Council approved a budget that will enable us as an organization to continue to provide services to our community and recognized the work Council and administration needs to do to change our path forward. This budget is not just about 2024, it is about planning for the years to come.” 

Some of the highlights of the amended 2024 budget include:  

  • Funding for municipal by-election, but reduced from $450,000 to $350,000
  • Funding for an Integrity Commissioner, but reduced from $105,000 to $85,000.
  • Greater Downtown Community Development Plan
  • Software maintenance increases
  • Stormwater infrastructure
  • Wastewater Treatment Plant Biosolids Lagoon Liner
  • Emergency Services CAD System Refresh 

“Over the last three days, City Council and administration worked through a budget process that focuses on core business and the critical needs of our community,” said Mike Olesen, Growth and Finance General Manager. “Working through a budget is never easy, and this year’s process was especially challenging as we worked to improve our future position. “We’re looking forward to building on this work as we develop our financial management plans and systems in the coming months.” 

For more information on the budgets, visit reddeer.ca/budget 

City of Red Deer

City introduces new phone number to report non-emergency mental health, addiction, or homeless issues

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New streamlined way to reach Red Deer’s Social Diversion Team

Since launching in 2021, the Social Diversion Team (SDT) has been responding to calls throughout Red Deer for individuals in need of non-emergency support, whether experiencing mental health struggles, addictions issues, or homelessness.

Beginning March 1, 2024, the community will need to call the non-emergency police line at 403-406-2200 to connect with the Social Diversion Team. This move from the previous 2-1-1 call line will improve the caller’s ability to quickly connect with a Police Communications Operator who can quickly determine the nature of the call and dispatch the appropriate resources in a timely and efficient manner.

“This change simplifies calling and dispatching the Social Diversion Team,” said Peter Puszka, Municipal Policing Services Superintendent. “Red Deerians now need to remember only one contact number for all non-emergency community safety concerns and our experienced, well-trained Police Communications Operators can assess the circumstances of the call, determine which resource is appropriate and dispatch accordingly.”

Though the Alberta 2-1-1 has been the dispatching service since the onset of the program, the move to internal dispatching will simplify the call-in process, removing barriers like pre-recorded messaging and on-hold wait times, improve internal communication between the dispatchers and the responding Social Diversion Team, and allow for operators with local community knowledge to provide enhanced response.

While the phone number has changed, all other elements of the program remain the same. The two-person Social Diversion Team consists of a Licensed Practical Nurse and a Social Diversion Specialist, who respond to reports of individuals in distress. The team connects clients with the social services they need, such as housing supports, mental health supports, detox programs and harm reduction resources.

“We are excited to continue providing individuals with the right response at the right time,” says Ryan Veldkamp, Social Wellness & Integration Supports Superintendent. “We know that not every call is an emergency call, and that’s why the Social Diversion Team is the right choice for these situations where individuals are in crisis. The team continues to allow our first responders to concentrate on responding to critical medical emergencies and criminal matters.”

In its three years of operation, the SDT has averaged a response rate of 185 events per month or approximately 6 calls a day. The teams use their specialized training to provide assessment, intervention and support to those in need.

Stephanie MacDonald, Outreach and Housing Services Manager for Safe Harbour Society said, “The Social Diversion Team is very excited for this change over and believes that this will allow for a more effective and timely response.”

While the SDT continues to operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 7 days a week, the 24/7 non-

emergency line will dispatch the SDT based on their availability, or utilize other policing and medical services when they are not.

To learn more about the Social Diversion Team, visit www.reddeer.ca/SDT.

When Should I call the Social Diversion Team?

If you see someone who is:

  • Experiencing a mental health or medical (non-emergency) crisis
  • Intoxicated or otherwise impaired
  • Requiring transport to appropriate services (i.e. a shelter)
  • Sleeping in an unsafe space and/or inappropriately dressed for the weather
  • Requiring social services (i.e. housing, nutrition, health or community supports)
  • Likely to come to harm without intervention

And the individual is not posing an immediate harm to themselves or others, call 403-406-2200

The team’s hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. However, the non-emergency (403-406-2200) line is operated 24/7. Outside of the Social Diversion team operating hours, callers will be provided with either a community referral, crisis intervention support, connected to 911, or offered a follow-up.

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Addictions

City Council decides to close Red Deer’s Overdose Prevention Site

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City Council requests the Province of Alberta make changes to OPS in Red Deer

City Council made decisions (Friday) related to Red Deer’s Overdose Prevention Site (OPS), requesting the Government of Alberta (GOA):

  • formalize an orderly transition of the existing OPS out of Red Deer by the end of 2025;
  • provide in its place greater harm reducing options within our community that focus on health, wellness, and recovery, including more detox capacity, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), recovery coaches, counsellors, and culturally appropriate health and wellness supports, etc.;
  • provide dedicated grant funding to provide a continuous police presence/enforcement in the immediate vicinity of the OPS and temporary shelter, until the crime and social disorder impacts associated with these provincial services are better mitigated for the safety and security of our public;
  • substantially increase front-line supports for mental health and addictions within our community/region to better address the root causes leading to drug and alcohol addictions.

These decisions stem from a Notice of Motion put forward by Councillor Higham on December 18, 2023. After being read into the record on January 22, 2024, a non-statutory public hearing was scheduled for yesterday, February 15, 2024. Approximately 40 members of the public attended the non-statutory public hearing, with approximately 30 individuals speaking to the Notice of Motion, sharing their thoughts on the issue.

After hearing from the public yesterday, City Council debated the motion today, with Mayor Ken Johnston now having City Council direction to take the issue forward to the province and proceed with advocacy efforts.

“The public hearing and the debate of this motion were harrowing and emotional experiences for everyone. Each of us have been touched in some way by addiction; we heard that very clearly, and I am no exception. We heard heartfelt testimony from many members of our community, citizens, some who use the OPS, some who are service providers in the community, business owners, doctors, family members that have lost loves ones, and more,” said Mayor Johnston. “Council approached this most sensitive of issues with open minds, open ears, and open hearts. We are trying to improve lives for those suffering from addiction. This is a complex challenge, as these are areas where municipalities do not have jurisdiction. What we know is that Red Deer needs robust support from the provincial government for people with addictions; we need support for our community that is grappling with the fallout of addictions; and we need that support in the most immediate way.”

Mayor Johnston added, “Following this meeting, I will reach out to the Ministry of Addictions and Mental Health to book meetings where we can discuss how to move forward in the best interest of our city.”

Currently the OPS is located 5246 53 Avenue in downtown Red Deer.

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