By Tim Kalinowski on November 26, 2020.
The Finance Committee of city council managed to achieve in its second day of deliberations its $6 million in cost savings to reach its target of a zero-per-cent tax increase to residents in 2021, but still has more work to do to meet its zero-per-cent target for 2022.
Councillors passed a flurry of resolutions on Wednesday from changes to park mowing services, to reductions in hours at the Lethbridge Public Library and Galt Museum and Archives, to reduction in support services such as cleaning for rented park shelters, to cutbacks to seasonal park maintenance operations. A $1-million cut to the policing budget also helped make up a significant portion of the total reductions achieved during Wednesday’s deliberations.
These savings, compounded with the Finance Committee’s decisions on Tuesday which added user fees for the City’s sewer service on private property and other internal pay cuts and administrative savings, helped bring council into its 2021 target range.
Finance Committee members will continue the process of budget deliberations to achieve additional savings for 2022 prior to formal budget adoption at city council on Nov. 30.
Committee chair Deputy Mayor Rob Miyashiro was pleased with the pace councillors were getting through the resolutions to swiftly reach their budget targets.
“We had a great start (Tuesday),” he said. “We set the table. We set the parameters, and we are looking at all the things we certainly need to go through. We had some initiatives we were able to work through.
“I think one of the good things is we have established a process to go through big chunks of the easier ones to do and deliberate on. We were fairly happy about our progress at the end of the day. (On Wednesday) council was saying, ‘Hey, let’s get at it. Let’s do it.’ We made some decisions to move big blocks of initiatives around to better deal with them a certain way, and I think council is working well together on this.”
Miyashiro said by Friday he expected Finance Committee would have a good package of recommendations together for city council to ratify which achieves the right balance between maintaining services in the community and delivering the cost cuts needed to deliver on their promise of a zero-per-cent property tax increase to residents.
“We are sitting as Finance Committee today,” he reminded onlookers. “We’re not sitting as city council. So we make this package of recommendations, and council makes the decision. We’re really hoping when we get this together we are going to have a really sound financial package to send to council on Monday.”
Miyashiro emphasized the process would continue until Friday, and the Finance Committee, depending on progress toward its targets, may or may not end up revisiting some of the motions passed earlier in the week at the committee members’ discretion.
“We said we would not put any more pressures on the community, and I think we have already come a long way (in three days) to do that,” he said.
“The target is zero,” Miyashiro emphasized. “The target is not minus. And if we can do that, we have done our job.”
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