By Lethbridge Herald on December 14, 2020.
City council passed the revised 2021 and 2022 budget without further amendment during Monday’s council, bringing to a close a lengthy process which began over three weeks ago in Finance Committee.
On the final day of deliberations two proposed amendments were defeated. Coun. Blaine Hyggen’s motion to rescind a $1-million cut to the police budget was defeated 6-3, with only Councillors Hyggen, Ryan Parker and Mayor Chris Spearman in favour of restoring the funds. Coun. Jeffrey Carlson’s amendment to reduce a proposed city council pay cut from 10 per cent to five per cent was defeated unanimously.
Deputy Mayor and Finance Committee chair Rob Miyashiro said the fact that few budget amendments were proposed (three in total), and none passed was a testament to the hard work the Finance Committee undertook to present a budget document most on council could agree on.
“I think we did a good job three weeks ago, which wound up with the outcome we had today,” he told reporters after the budget passed by a vote of 7-2 on Monday.
“It was a great process. Everybody said what they needed to say. Everybody got their points across. I think it was a great debate on every funding initiative we had. We set out to do zero (tax property increases in 2021 and 2022), and that is what we came up with.”
Miyashiro acknowledged the police budget issue was more divisive than the rest of the budget for councillors.
“The police one is a tough one,” he said. “We kept the money in for the three big initiatives, the community policing, The Watch and the PACT program. But overall, in their budget, we took away $1 million. It’s up to the police commission to try to determine how they are going to work it into their budget.”
Councillors Hyggen and Joe Mauro voted against the budget, feeling it did not go far enough in terms of making cuts at the City of Lethbridge in line with the KPMG report. Both felt the City continues to provide services they have no business being in, and the taxpayer got no real relief during these Finance Committee’s deliberations.
“There is only one pocket to pick, and that’s our taxpayers,” stated Mauro. “In this particular case with COVID, with the KPMG review, I didn’t see us doing anything significant to really show the taxpayer that we (at the City) are willing to actually take a hit. I don’t think we are. I think it is status quo.”
With the passing of the budget, council has charted a course for a zero-per-cent municipal property tax increase in 2021 and 2022.
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