June 21st, 2024

City budget deliberations weighing tough decisions

By Lethbridge Herald on November 14, 2022.

Herald photo by Al Beeber Lethbridge city council, acting as Economic Standing Policy Committee, engages in budget deliberations Monday in council chambers. Discussions will continue all week with council expected to announce a final budget on Nov. 29.

Al Beeber – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – abeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Lethbridge city council, acting as the Economic Standing Policy committee, began Monday the lengthy process of deliberating the budget that will be in place for the next four years.

The draft budget calls for an annual increase of 3.77 per cent annually over the next four years. City treasurer Darell Mathews told the SPC that if all initiatives contained in the draft budget are approved by council that figure will increase by 2.3 per cent annually over the budget’s four-year term.

Council began discussing initiatives late Monday morning after presentations from mayor Blaine Hyggen, city manager Lloyd Brierley and Mathews with the process of discussions taking some time before the SPC began addressing council initiatives.

There are 12 council initiatives on the table – several of them containing multiple parts. After these are addressed, the SPC will begin discussing 65 other new initiatives on the table which have been broken down into several sections.

The SPC heard that the 3.77 per cent annual increase is needed just to maintain the current level of services in the city.

Mayor Blaine Hyggen told the SPC there will be “a scheduled week-long deliberation of the city’s operating budget for 2023 to 2026. It will be a week of intense debate and discussion,” the mayor said.

Sometime this week, the SPC will make a recommendation to council that on Nov. 29 it adopt an amended operating budget for the next four years, Hyggen said.

He said the process of budget development started almost a year ago. The strategic focus areas and goals in the plan have formed a basis for the budget planning process, Hyggen said.

“We are ready to make decisions,” the mayor added.

After three years of no property tax increases, the SPC heard that will not be possible for the next four years.

Brierley told the SPC planning for budget deliberations requires much preparation with department general managers “challenged to plan operating activities over a four-year time frame and develop a base budget document that reflects our current services and revenue requirements necessary to deliver those services for the next four years.”

He said several new program initiatives have been submitted for consideration.

He said at the direction of previous city council, administration delivered “three consecutive years of zero per cent municipal tax increases to help minimize the financial impact of the pandemic.” He said in 2019 council approved a 1.82 per cent increase which was the lowest in 20 years.

Brierley said “a zero per cent tax increase is not sustainable for maintaining our existing levels of service and city council is going to have some extremely tough decisions” to make.

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Citi Zen

Yup, 3.77 percent salary increase annually for City Hall workers.
Time for a witch hunt through City Hall.