On February 28, the Government of Alberta (GOA) released its 2023-2024 operating budget and simultaneously announced a surplus budget of $2.6 billion, as projected revenues of $70.7 billion (driven largely by positive natural resource returns) and offsetting expenses of $68.3 billion meant further relief and additional support to Albertans. Additionally, the GOA announced its expectations around future surplus budgets of $2.4 billion in 2024-2025 and $1.4 billion in 2025-2026 leaving Alberta well positioned to face potential future economic challenges.
Indeed, the Alberta economy seems to have fully recovered from the pandemic downturn and is now expected to lead the country in gross domestic product (GDP) growth at 2.8%. Solid energy prices and population growth fueled by immigration are expected to support investment and provide relief to Alberta's tight labour market, but rising borrowing costs and prices are expected to continue to dampen consumer spending.
Within the 2023-2024 budget, the Red Deer region was the beneficiary of focused government spending which is expected to buoy the local economy and support growth in the region.
The 2023-2024 budget highlights for Red Deer include:
- The Red Deer Regional Hospital will see a $320.6 million investment over the next two years. This work is assumed to be the beginning of the $1.8 billion investment commitment made in 2022 to expand services and modernize hospital operations in support of Central Alberta’s growing population.
- The Red Deer Regional Airport will receive an investment of $30 million dollars for expansion of airport services to support the attraction of low-cost airline passenger service as well as growing freight services and logistics further underpinning the region’s convenient (and central) logistical stronghold.
- Red Deer’s portion of the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) Grant (which ends in 2023 and will be replaced with the Local Government Fiscal Framework in 2024) will double from $700,000 to $1.4 million. This one-time adjustment will offer relief to the City of Red Deer’s approved 2024 Operating Budget. Similarly, the MSI capital funding for Red Deer will grow in 2023 to $12.1 million up from $11.4 million in 2022.
- Red Deer will also see a reduction in the education requisition from property owners of 2.36%. This reduction in education property tax will be combined with the 4.61 % 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 new Justice Centre with maintained funding.
All of this is good news for the Capstone community redevelopment program.
Capstone is imagined as a vibrant and connected downtown community in which thousands of new residents will one day live.
"The Red Deer region is growing" says John Sennema, Manager of Land & Economic Development with the City of Red Deer. "Between July 1, 2021 and July 1, 2022, over 1400 people moved to the area which equates to over 600 housing units being taken out of the market – whether purchased or rented. As the city continues to grow and prosper through municipal, provincial, and private investment, more people will be attracted to opportunities in the area and that’s sure to benefit Capstone".
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