OPINION: Budget Open House, be there

April 14, 2017 - 9:00pm Updated: April 17, 2017 - 5:49pm

I’m no financial expert, but one thing I have an appreciation for is how arduous a task it is for City of Red Deer staff and city council to do a budget.

Each December and January, council sits down for days on end to debate and finalize the annual Capital and Operating budgets. Once we all find out what the property tax increase is going to be, the complaining is endless.

I get it, being taxed at all, let alone more and more each year, kind of sucks on the surface. And don’t get me wrong, if you voted, you have every right to complain.

However, the reason property owners get taxed a little more each year is because the costs associated with providing and improving services don’t go down. Not to mention, the way Red Deer’s property tax increase is broken down, an annual portion is for capital endeavours. If people want a zero per cent tax increase one year, from what I’ve learned, we’ll all pay for it at some point down the road.

Why am I choosing now to write about budgets and taxes?

On Wednesday, the City is hosting its annual Budget Open House, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Festival Hall.

If your schedule allows, you should be there.

This isn’t just about the tax increase property owners will get saddled with next year.

Think about snow removal, transit, keeping our trails maintained, waste and recycling pickup, fixing potholes, etc.

Think about fighting crime, efforts to reduce homelessness, and other vital community services.

Think about a new concert hall, an aquatic centre with a 50-metre pool, and other amenities a city our size could use.

Think about preserving our history.

Think about growing our city and becoming a bigger player on the national stage.

I know a lot of people care about how their money is being used, but to be frank, it doesn’t always show. Instead of waiting for Budget time to come and go and then complaining about how far the City is bending you over, be a part of the process. The City is literally asking you to be a part of formulating their budgets. It doesn’t guarantee anything, but it’s a pretty ripe olive branch.

Public attendance at city council meetings is sparse at best, and events like the Budget Open House and Let’s Talk usually bring out a few hundred. But there are 100,000 people in Red Deer.

Sure, a portion of that 100,000 are babies and children, and sure, you could be watching city council meetings online, or be submitting feedback to the City via email, snail mail or in person at another time.

Here is a golden opportunity with the Budget Open House I don’t think you should miss out on. All of city council is scheduled to be there. You can learn about programs and services offered by the City, and there will be demonstrations on key projects and initiatives. You can even provide feedback on City Bylaws.

Heck, make it a date night. After all, Red Deer is one of the country’s most romantic cities.

Budget Open House and chill?

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