July 12th, 2024

Budget deliberations project 5.1 per cent tax increase


By Lethbridge Herald on November 18, 2022.

The lights of vehicles blur by as traffic travels along Stafford Drive South Friday evening in front of city hall. The Economic Standing Policy Committee wrapped up budget deliberations Friday, projecting a 5.1 per cent annual property tax increase. Herald photo by Ian Martens

Al Beeber – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – abeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

That’s a wrap! City council acting as Economic Standing Policy Committee wrapped up five days of budget deliberations Friday morning with unanimous approval to move forward a 5.1 per cent annual property tax increase for council to approve at its Nov. 29 meeting.

The base budget for the next four years called for a 3.77 per cent annual property tax increase. If all initiatives had been approved, the increased cost to taxpayers over four years would have been 6.06 per cent annually.

Increases to protective services takes up just more than half of the annual increase which will amount to a hike of $129.93 per single family residence based on an average market value of $285,800.

The SPC during the week addressed 65 new initiatives and 13 council member-sponsored motions, the last of which was brought forward Friday morning.

“It was a little bit of a gruelling process but we saw that coming in. We all have different opinions and we talk to different individuals throughout the community. But the biggest part I want to touch on with this was how we were collegial through the whole process,” mayor Blaine Hyggen said after discussions ended Friday.

He said there were frustrations on some resolutions but to be able to put egos aside and look at what they could do to better the city, “we all came together and it’s something I haven’t seen in my time on council or as mayor. So just to have that respect was second to none,” said the mayor.

Hyggen said he would have preferred a zero per cent increase but with an inflation rate over 11 per cent, “it’s something that just was not achievable. Are there ways that we can become a little more nimble as we look to the future and sharpen pencils to go forward? That’s something, yes, that we can look at and we can continue to look at that. That’s our job.

“But what I think is most important is that we knew that we were coming in, it could have been close to that seven per cent mark,” said the mayor.

But the SPC managed to keep the hike at 5.1 per cent while addressing a need he said was the top concern of many in the city – public safety, Hyggen added.

Being able to support the police and emergency services/fire department “are very important in the time we’re in right now,” Hyggen added.

Fire/EMS hirings are contingent upon a contract being signed with Alberta Health Services.

The mayor said he expects council to pass the budget based on the tone of discussions and debate.

“I can’t foresee a problem being there but there are always discussions that can happen at council level,” said the mayor.

Items that were defeated at the SPC can come back to council, the mayor added, but “I think with the debate throughout the week, though, a lot of the questions were answered so I don’t know if that will happen.”

Councillor Rajko Dodic said “I think we’re actually in a very good place.

“We started at the beginning of the week with a report from administration for us to maintain existing services, we were looking at a tax increase of 3.77 per cent increase,”  he said, noting that figure is less than inflation so the starting point was “pretty good.”

He said public safety is of utmost importance to the citizens.

Dodic added the budget as presented has “a very, very good chance of passing.”

“We have a budget that I think is incredibly reasonable,” said Dodic.

“The events that surround us dictate the budget,” added Dodic, recalling his first stint on council from 2004-07. Because of the financial times then, council was looking at a base budget increase of about 5.6 per cent, higher than the current one. At the time after new initiatives were passed, the budget increase was over seven per cent, he recalled.

“Coming up with a 3.77 base increase is on administration. They did a great job in being able to do that and council was also able to look at the new initiatives, and not approve everything, but approve what council felt were the most important initiatives for our community,” said Dodic.

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snowman

Just started to review the City managers operating budget and note four new employees for the new organic facility the then GM Waste and recycling stated it was reduced to two employees also two trucks. have not seen the contractors’ cost or the facility operation costs of $5.1 million, do not see the ICI business unit tipping fees for over 20,000 tonnes of organic to new organic facility or the closing costs of their landfill cell #7
Do not see how transit is covering bus empty miles cost of drivers, wages and benefits , fuel ,carbon emission cost total operating costs have to look at the $9 million transit fund.. Maybe they have included the 13new electric buses $1.3 million each and 6 new police hybrid electric vehicles at$ 80,000 each the environmental process you know, any comments.

ewingbt

The biggest drain of manpower for LPS/Fire-EMS is from the addicts/homeless. Fire-EMS respond many times per day, often several calls per hour to overdoses where the subject is given or has already been given Narcan or Naloxone, refuses further treatment and walks away, often abusing the first responders in the process. There have been several structure fires started by the homeless, including abanded houses, garages and sheds, which often lead to damage of nearby properties and required a significant responsed by the fire department. Is there any wonder we have CODE REDs where no ambulance is available?
Police respond to multiple calls per day dealing with aggressive homeless/addicts, threats, assaults, thefts, shoplifting, break and enters, property damage, drugs and human trafficking issues, etc. and further investigations take up a lot more of their time.
Both budgets would save millions if the issues were cleaned up on our streets and we would have more available fire/EMS/police!
There is no reason why there are encampments . . . none! They were offered alternative sheltering/housing but chose to live in tents so they answered to nobody, creating a lawless society that has proven to increase crime, violence, threats and intimidation.
These are our tax dollars and people need to realize that millions of our property taxes collected are spent dealing with the issues and in some cases enabling them.
The only way to end this waste is to stop allowing the vagrants/loiterers from doing what ever they want on our streets, using business fronts and rear entrances as toilets, throwing their garbage on the ground and writing graffiti in the walls of buildings, most of which is vulgar, destroying our city’s reputation and pillaging our neighbourhoods, etc. . . . enough is enough!
This is our city and we as citizens do have a say and let’s hope that this budget gives police the manpower it needs to take back our city! We do have a say and we can make a difference . . . stop thinking ‘that there is nothing I can do about it’! That is why we can voice our concerns to politicians, committees, and even the police commission. We do have a say!

Last edited 1 year ago by ewingbt
buckwheat

Ewingbt. Nailed it. Excellent synopsis. Council needs to ask how many times the police have been called to attend to vagrants, thieves and homeless. A clear record of the numbers of repeat calls to EMS and how much Narcan has been pumped out. Believe this council is soft. Not one asked how many complaints a year do the LPS attend. Not just file numbers. More later.

Last edited 1 year ago by buckwheat
buckwheat

Continuing on. Here are some questions council should have asked and with an ex police chief who would knowingly know all the questions to ask it is difficult to fathom why these questions were not brought forward, or not!!!
Of the total 165 staff of the LPS, what does this number include? Does this include civilian staff and commissionaires?
how many are administration?
how many are specialized sections?
on the four watches how may supervisors per watch (S/Sgt, Sgt. Corp) etc.?
on the four watches how many are assigned to the responding of complaints on each watch on average?
How many number complaints or files does the LPS accumulate in one year?
Remove all the complaints where there is no attendance, info files, no attendance thefts and what have you.
Divide that number by 365 days in the year.
Divide that number by 24 and you can determine just how busy and “overworked and stressed out” (not my words) the police force on the street is.
There is one question that should be addressed and Dodic mentioned it with respect council has a duty to maintain a safe community. The answer is at the court house door. That is where this council should be lobbying, and the Attorney General’s office to end the catch and release programs.
Same type of questions can be applied to the EMS service,
how many calls per year
how many supervisors on shift
how many on the wagons
types of emergencies:
Heart attacks, etc.,
injury
drug overdoses (all, however record individual numbers and not just a total, let us see what you are dealing with and how many repeat calls are required)
narcan administered.

now do the 365 into the number and then 24 into that number and we can see how busy they are.
This council is NOT prepared to ask these questions and neither is this newspaper.