By Tim Kalinowski on December 1, 2020.
Lethbridge City Council has tabled final decision on the 2021 and 2022 budget for two weeks.
Coun. Joe Mauro proposed the tabling motion after Councillors Belinda Crowson and Blaine Hyggen brought forward motions on Monday which would essentially reconsider use of the savings found in the 2021 budget.
Originally Finance Committee had proposed carrying over those savings to provide a zero-per-cent property tax increase for 2022 as well. However, if any new spending is added in 2021, it is likely a zero-per-cent tax increase would not be possible for 2022 without reopening the budget again in 2021.
Crowson proposed using the approximate $2.17 million in savings above and beyond the funding needed to keep local property taxes at zero per cent in 2021 to fund social programs, housing in the community, and other programs with Lethbridge’s most vulnerable, on a one time basis.
Crowson said it was well known that Lethbridge is far below other jurisdictions in funding such services which, she believed, has worsened the social problems in the community.
“We spent less on social programs per capita than any of the other communities studied (by KPMG), and yet we have some of the largest social issues of any of these other communities,” she stated. “I think my council colleagues would realize those two are inextricably linked.”
Crowson’s motion was defeated 6-3, with Councillors Crowson, Jeffrey Coffman and Jeffrey Carlson in support.
After Crowson’s motion was defeated, Coun. Blaine Hyggen brought forward a motion to reverse the $1-million funding cut to the Lethbridge Police Service passed by the Finance Committee last week.
It was then Mauro brought forth his motion to table, suggesting if councillors were wanting to bring further amendments to the budget forward they should have more time to consult with the community and submit those amendments in writing prior to the next city council meeting. This would allow all on council to have time to read them, he said, and make a well-considered decision on each of them.
The motion to table passed by a vote of 5-4. Council will likely make a final decision on the budget proposed by Finance Committee at the Dec. 14 council meeting.
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