October 22nd, 2020

Lethbridge County keeping spending in line with population growth


By Mabell, Dave on November 6, 2019.

Dave Mabell

Lethbridge Herald

dmabell@lethbridgeherald.com

Lethbridge County councillors have been assuring residents they’re being careful with ratepayers’ dollars.

Now they have the evidence to prove it.

A new report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business shows the county’s operational spending has stayed in line with population levels over the last 10 years.

Between 2007 and 2017, it says, Lethbridge County’s population remained stable – while real operational spending actually decreased by 10 per cent.

Per-capita operational spending is reported as $1,910, placing the county in the lower tier of municipal spending across the province.

“Lethbridge County is committed to keeping our operational costs in line with our population growth,” says Ann Mitchell, the new chief administrative officer. “We take our responsibility for managing taxpayer money very seriously and are constantly looking for ways to be more resourceful.”

It’s particularly good news, she adds, in light of the numbers contained in the 2019-20 provincial budget.

“We are always trying to find ways to become more efficient,” Mitchell points out.

County officials are currently conducting an employee compensation review, she reports. While determined to keep costs in line, they want to “ensure that wages are sustainable, competitive and in line with provincial standards.”

At the same time, “We always have to be conscious that we are dealing with the public’s money.”

Mitchell notes it is each municipality’s responsibility to provide public services to our communities “and an excellent quality of life to our citizens.”

But each municipality is unique, she observes, with different service and service level needs. And that affects operational spending.

“I would caution everybody to make sure we are comparing apples to apples,” when comparing one municipality to another.

While many Alberta municipalities benefit from “linear” taxes paid by companies in the energy industry, Lethbridge County gets very little.

As well, Mitchell says county and municipal district officials across Alberta must base their budgets on assessments that haven’t been updated by the province since 1994.

“We have had to find alternative revenue streams.”

County administrators continually review core services, Mitchell adds, looking for greater efficiencies.

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