Friday, January 14, 2011

Red Deer City Budget:Kerry Wood Nature Center

       Red Deer city council is working overtime in preparing the city's next budget. They have done the infrastructure budget and now are working on the operating budget. It's a tough project for the council as there are many aspects to consider. It's very easy for one small action to affect something else which is totally unrelated. Hanging over their heads at all times is a group I call "the No Taxers." These people are brutal and freely criticize all and any decision showing a complete lack of knowledge and understanding. Unfortunately council has to keep these issues in the back of their mind and this influences budget decisions. These unjust critics want to make council feel as if they are wasteful and inefficient and they are quite successful in their endeavor.

      More than twenty years ago the Waskasoo Park system was established as a provincial project. The center of this is the Kerry Wood Nature Center. Once establishment of the park was complete it was turned over for the city to operate. The city in it's wisdom established a management board. The management board would submit a detailed budget to the city for council approval. Some things would be cut back and at other times the city could find money for special projects.

     The Nature Center over the years has developed many excellent interpretive programs . These programs have been much appreciated by the community. A nature nursery is one program that is a model to many other jurisdictions. The Nature Center has an active support group which raises extra funds. They have a casino every two years to raise funds. The nature center has no difficulty finding volunteers. You could say that this facility has strong community support.

     Now comes my complaint about this year's budget. A salary increase for the small nature center staff was rejected and the standard type keep up with inflation allotment was made. This has gone on for a number of years so this small staff has fallen behind to the point that it has become a very unfair situation. In one case someone at the same job description makes $11.00 per hour more with the city. These people basically work for the same employer.

     So I would strongly suggest to council that they take a second look at their decision and find it in their budget to compensate the Nature center staff so that they are on a more equal level with other city staff working at the same level. This would be a very small amount of dollars because there are less than ten employees. I'm sure that this small amount would easily be found in the city budget.