By Lethbridge Herald on May 19, 2020.
City council will be reopening its four-year budget in November and is creating a new councillor-led committee to steer the City’s post-COVID-19 long-term economic recovery.
Council passed both motions during Tuesday’s council meeting, unanimously voting to reopen the budget and voting 8-1 to found a new Recovery Lethbridge committee.
Coun. Belinda Crowson sponsored the first motion to reopen the four-year budget, originally passed in 2018, to take into account the additional costs incurred through the City’s COVID-19 response, the recommendations of the KPMG operational review, and the potentially significant ramifications of the Kenney government’s recent announcement it would be amending its own provincial budget passed earlier this spring.
Crowson said the need to look at the budget in light of recent developments was a no-brainer, and she acknowledged council’s unanimous vote to do so in November, two years before a review is actually due.
“We have had a lot of things going on,” she explained. “We will have the first two KPMG reports in by then, which is the first operational review in 40 years. We will have the governance review the Open and Effective Government Committee will be making recommendations on — we will be bringing things back to council. And then, of course, we are in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic and our recovery from that. We have done some short-term recovery planning with the new tax bylaws for this year, but we know seeing what has happened in other recoveries, we have to think about mid-term and long-term recovery as well.”
Crowson predicted the recently announced provincial budget review will likely also cast a long shadow over those impending council budget debates.
“Whenever the federal or provincial government do anything, it all rolls down to the City,” she said. “By November, we will collect the best information we can and look at the budget.”
Coun. Jeff Carlson brought forth the second motion to found a Recovery Lethbridge committee of city council to help steer a course for the City’s longer term economic well-being post-COVID-19.
Carlson brought forth a motion earlier this spring which had sought to suspend all regularly scheduled city council meetings in light of COVID-19 as a means of modelling good community health messages about social isolation and physical distancing. That motion was ultimately defeated.
Carlson, masked to again model good community health messages about continuing attention to personal health and physical distancing in this time of pandemic even as local businesses reopen, said on Tuesday he felt now was the time for city councillors to step forward to take the city’s economic recovery firmly in hand and provide community co-ordination and leadership for all stakeholders.
“It is important because council was elected to lead,” he said. “We know there are different sectors, organizations and individuals in our community that are taking on pieces of recovery. Council needs to be leading and being the conveners of all those groups, organizations, individuals and sectors that are working toward recovery in their different areas.”
Carlson said the Recovery Lethbridge committee would also necessitate the creation of three new sub-committees each led by three members of council which would take into account four pillars of recovery, including the economic and business recovery pillar, the stimulus funding pillar, and the community well-being pillar. The fourth pillar, the corporate (City operations) pillar, would be led by the city manager.
Each of those sub-committees would report weekly to a committee-of-the-whole of council under the banner of Recovery Lethbridge.
Carlson said the goal of Recovery Lethbridge was to allow all community stakeholders working on various aspects of the recovery to come together and speak with one voice under council leadership.
“I think members of our community have great ideas,” he said, “and they will feed them up into council, and we will take them forward.”
Coun. Joe Mauro felt the Recovery Lethbridge committee would simply be duplicating the work of other groups already tasked with the City’s post-COVID economic recovery, and voted against Carlson’s motion.
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter