June 19th, 2024

Council passes budget with 5.1 per cent tax increase


By Lethbridge Herald on November 29, 2022.

Mayor Blaine Hyggen speaks in council chambers as Lethbridge city council on Tuesday unanimously approved the four-year operating budget. Herald photo by Al Beeber

Al Beeber – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – abeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Lethbridge city council on Tuesday unanimously approved the four-year operating budget which will result in an annual residential property tax increase of 5.1 per cent.

The budget was unanimously recommended to council when it acted as Economic Standing Policy Committee following a week of deliberations.

“I think we kind of knew the direction that we’d be going,” Mayor Blaine Hyggen said Tuesday, referring to the SPC’s unanimous vote to move the budget forward to council. 

“We knew it wasn’t going to be a zero when we’ve had three previous years of zero. We knew there had to be some increase when you look at what’s happening currently” with an inflation rate of 6.9 per cent.

“So dividing this up over eight years, these four previous and four going forward it’s 2.9 (per cent) so that’s still below inflation. We tried to do the best that we could for sure.”

He said the budget addresses city needs.

“It’s most important to obviously support the needs within our community. You hear rumours of recession, et cetera, and it’s really important that we definitely focus on the needs over those wants right now until we have a more stable economy,” the mayor added.

Hyggen said he’s had discussions with members of a mid-city mayor’s group consisting of 24 communities and all have mentioned there will be increases in taxes this year.

“Some of these groups have mentioned there’s going to be an increase and they didn’t have zeroes in the previous three years so they may not be hit as hard. We’re looking at the different numbers and some are higher and some are lower,” he said.

Hyggen said council heard clearly that public safety was the top concern of residents.

“That equates to three quarters of a per cent of taxation over top of the base budget of 3.77,” said the mayor adding that council after hearing from residents “definitely wanted to invest in the police service.

Deputy mayor Ryan Parker said council never wants to increase taxes but believes the community understands the city is living through inflationary times.

“It’s hard to hold the line – we held the line for three straight years and kudos to the administration for making it work.”

But he added costs are rising and “You have to have some kind of increase.” He said with the increase, residents are getting more police officers, more EMS staff and “they’re getting the parks crew back to where they should be. I think people understand and appreciate that as well,” Parker added.

“Being unanimous, I think it shows council’s understanding and respect of the process and also understanding that we need to move forward, he added.

During debate on the motion to approve the budget, councillor Rajko Dodic addressed the zero per cent increase on taxes during the pandemic and said administration faced a daunting task given inflation but sharpened their pencils to arrive at the base 3.77 per cent increase before SPC approved new initiatives.

“It’s time to pay the piper.”

Councillor Jeff Carlson said the budget was fiscally responsible and progressive.

If all budget initiatives had been approved, taxpayers would have faced an annual increase of 6.06 per cent.

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.

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Dennis Bremner

Why do we have a “Public Safety Issue” ?
Because we cannot face the fact that we are headed down the same road as Vancouver, Seattle, Calgary, Edmonton etc etc.
We are doing the same thing, hoping for different results. As with all the other cities, we allow the nonprofits to run the agenda. They have proven over and over again they are extremely good at killing downtowns and permanently imbedding to make it impossible to fix later.
You are seeing nonprofits moving into 12 A B C streets and the latest move is Lethbridge Housing (another nonprofit) wants to rezone (using direct control ) the Castle Apartments across the street from Humpties Restaurant and Halmrest Manor next to the Library into a shelter of a different description.
Direct Control allows the “rezoner” the opportunity to say “the place is already filled with the people we want to house, so lets zone it that way”. That is a logical approach but it also adds to the embedding. These places will not be dry, because you cannot impose dry on a “home”. So it is a way to provide shelter to wet users without telling people that is what you are doing.
The meeting to debate the Rezoning is Dec 13th?. The debate will be one sided and the result will be predetermined, unless you speak up! BRZ is finally starting to get it, but so far not a peep out of Chamber of Commerce who, supposedly represents businesses! The CEO of the Chamber is Co-Chair of the “Lethbridge Reconciliation Board” whom is influencing this fiasco, so don’t expect anything from them!
So this all started with the SSIG group who was composed of literally 90% nonprofits who would directly benefit from having everything downtown, and now Lethbridge Housing (another non profit) is moving in on this as well.
So you fully get the picture. The library is already compromised by Drug Addicts, the housing Next door will become a permanent shelter (call it what you want, but that’s what it is). Then to ensure Galt Gardens continues to become an Addicts playground, the rezoning of the Castle Apartments ensure that.
So how large an area have we now suddenly compromised for Drug Addicts?
6th and Stafford, to Alpha House (shelter 2nd North). Shelter to 13th North. and everything in between. Then Alpha House to Castle Apartments which is Scenic Drive including everything between. Anyone reading this should realize how much square area that encompasses. What is left in downtown? Perhaps you need a pretty picture to see what is happening? https://lethccc.com/impact.html
Is the complacent Lethbridge Taxpayer finally started to get what is happening here? Perhaps now that it is hitting your wallet (5.1%) for 4 years compounded is about a 22% rate hike, with more and higher rates to come! Perhaps this starts to make you realize waiting to the 11th hour is not such a wonderful idea anymore?
I have seen this over and over again and the outcome is not pretty. You either decide now to “care about your downtown” , your fellow ratepayers, and your businesses, or don’t complain about your tax bill or your safety any longer, its that easy!
There is an alternative https://lethccc.com . Don’t like the plan? No problem, come up with one of your own! Our plan is not the only plan possible, perhaps the high paying profs of UofL could actually try to help us? I will not hold my breath!
I believe you help Addicts and the homeless, but I also believe they are not entitled to prime real estate anymore than you are! I participated in helping Alvin Mills Treatment Camp and parted with about $1200 of my own money because I wanted people to be helped! Do no harm to ANYONE! is what I believe FOR EVERYBODY, not just the Addicts and not just the Homeless! Do no Harm to LeAlta Lumber, Kitchen Center, Switzers Auto, Truck Stop, Bakery, End of Roll, Oil Changers, do no harm to Northside Ratepayers…….just DO NO HARM, period!
You may say “well how do we do that”? I am 74 and know there are people that are far smarter than I, so where are they? Will it be sitting, with the “powerful of LETHBRIDGE” at the Wine/Cheese party with tea in hand finger pointing at the right angle saying “this should never have happened”? I got news for you, its happening because you are too busy trying to get on the Invitee list for that Wine/Cheese party night
I also believe Ratepayers, the people that pay for this city come first, why? Well if you preserve Ratepayers, their society, you then have the money to assist Addicts and Homeless. Destroy the Ratepayers as these nonprofits intend, and you get the lawlessness you are entitled to as a complacent Taxpaying resident of this city.
As you can see by my continual beratement of Lethbridge Ratepayer complacency, I am not trying to win friends and be awarded prizes for being a “swell guy”. I care about my downtown, and the residents that live here, do you?
I care about Addicts and the Homeless, I just do not believe you upend a Cities Downtown or Residential Communities to accommodate people that do not pay taxes, and cater to the non profits that also do not pay taxes! So what is the intent here, destroy those that do? Name one city that has done this that has not ended up creating a DTES Vancouver in a larger or smaller form? Do we think were special and it will not happen to us? THINK!!!
Does this make sense at all, to any of you? Obviously yes, because you continue to head home every night and say nothing to stop total irreversible destruction of the city core! Where is Shannon Phillips? Nathan Neudorf? Cindy Bester? and the big pockets of Lethbridge? Where is the UofL Profs who continually preach from the pulpit as long as it does not end up on their campus or in their backyard? It would appear silent indifference works, I should give it a try!
This is unfolding exactly as I have predicted (unfortunately). By the time any decision to kill or not to kill the downtown gets in front of council, it will be too late, downtown will be a ghost town that shuts down at 5PM. Need a business to start during the upcoming recession? Get into window bars, steel screen doors, and security systems, your employment will be assured!

Last edited 1 year ago by Dennis Bremner
ewingbt

I agree with most of what you said here and sadly you are right! They seem to have the negative mindset that just because it is happening in other communities that it has to happen here as well. We had a chance to stop it last year, but more and more decisions are being made that will only increase the issues.
It appears that we could broadcast warnings across all media of what not to do daily, using the Vancouver DTES as the prime example since 20 years later there problems only increase, and they would still continue down the same rut!
It is not just the taxpayers on the hook, but may young lives taken and families destroyed. It is not just an indigenous issue anymore with many young non-indigenous lives taken from our community as the tentacles of the crime/addiction spread to all areas of our community.
New York has made the controversial decision to institutionalize those with mental health issues involuntarily.
“…In a dramatic attempt to deal with a public mental health crisis that has eluded mayors for decades, Eric Adams has directed police and emergency medical workers to involuntarily hospitalize more mentally ill people, taking them off the streets and subways to get them the psychiatric help they need.
The mayor, who first began dealing with the city’s homeless crisis by taking down homeless encampments, said Tuesday he has a “moral obligation” to get people with mental illness the help they may not have the capacity to know they need, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported…”
We should consider this as well as if an addict overdoses and EMS responds, they should immediately be taken to hospital for a 48 hour observation period to make sure they don’t overdose again. Often EMS responds multiple times to the same person overdosing in the same day.
While in the hospital, they should be presented with available treatment plans and if mental health issues are found, be treated.
What we are doing is not working the issues are growing . . . when will we understand we need to change how we are dealing with these issues!
I agree . . . that leadership is drinking the kool-aid of the non-profits who have been brainwashed in harm reduction and other methods that BC has proven, are complete failures.
We as city taxpayers are already paying over $10 million per year from our property taxes to deal with the issues from addiction! Homelessness, crime, mental health conditions, over crowded shelters, food banks stretched, police/fire/EMS burned out and run ragged . . . all are products from the addiction!
We should be reducing the number of shelter spaces and increasing mental health and addiction treatment with effective treatment programs that work . . . many do not!

biff

“…In a dramatic attempt to deal with a public mental health crisis that has eluded mayors for decades, Eric Adams has directed police and emergency medical workers to involuntarily hospitalize more mentally ill people, taking them off the streets and subways to get them the psychiatric help they need.
The mayor, who first began dealing with the city’s homeless crisis by taking down homeless encampments, said Tuesday he has a “moral obligation” to get people with mental illness the help they may not have the capacity to know they need,
you support that? nothing like giving the power of god to the likes of the useless that run the shtshow. the outfitting of the masses with chips to make them all good and proper, but until pharm can patent chips and have them made mandatory by “govt”, we can just lock ’em up until mandatory “medicated” – welcome to dystopia for real.

biff

your concerns are for the most part well founded. i do not think that annual increases of over 5% are due primarily to addictions and the homeless. moreover, their cost/burden on us needs to be compensated for by the province and the feds – it is ridiculous that a city as tiny as ours has to bear the financial costs as well as the social burdens for that.
the biggest costs to our city are salaries (i feel everyone that works/contributes deserves a living wage; however, seeing as that is not the case in our society, it maybe time to pay what is affordable rather than just shovel out the public purse like money is nothing.
however, the biggest hits on the public purse that can indeed be controlled are coming from paying out for wants rather than being more strictly needs based; also, we lose a ton of money on waste, inefficiencies, and, likely, graft (maybe grey area “legal”, but sleazy all the same). has the city ever had an actual audit? is that too much to ask? i expect there is a lot of covering up, but without an audit, and without even an investigative newspaper (you wan to sell papers, try providing a service more useful than what amounts to gossip and regurgitating what we get from radio and tv services, and the usual accolades for the local wealthy promoter that got 750k$ of our dollars to host a crappy golf tourney at his course).
every one of out councilors talked bug about reigning in spending blah blah…and yet what continues is the usual at city hall.

Dennis Bremner

How to predict spending. 1) Catch and Release 2) AHS leaves all people to the city to deal with, takes no responsibility. 3) LOPS and MSTH sued the UCP to try to stop presenting Health Cards and lost. Why is that important? If the cards are followed through on, you will be able to trace the shuttling of individuals to different cities,one of those two groups is involved with shuttling. 4) Police have admitted they are literally helpless with tent cities. 5) Homeless people are 1/5th of the entire homeless group the remainder are directly connected to the drug community. 6) We are the closest drop off point to the US Border, once drug dealers take control we will be the hot spot for drug importation. 7) Lethbridge Residents appear to be ok with starting a mini Vancouver DTES so it will get legs. 8) We have no strategic plan that I can see that does not involve killing the Downtown. 9) We address things in isolation. Have you seen any meetings on this issue? Has Ratepayers been consulted? Has Lethbridge Housing changed their tune and are now liaising with Blood Housing? My bet is no. 10) We are repeating the exact same things that other cities have done.
Check out crime, property security costs, and drug dealing increases in cities that have catch and release.

Last edited 1 year ago by Dennis Bremner
biff

we are pretty much agreed. just saying i feel the massive annual tax increases have far more to do with other issues. i do, however, thank you for your comments with regard to our addicts and homeless. it is clear we are utterly ineffective, and indeed, we are pretty much copying what clearly is not working in other centers.

ewingbt

The biggest budget is the police budget! That is why whenever there is a recession or other finance issue, police budgets are the first a Council often reduces.
Millions of police budget dollars are paid for investigations related to the drug crisis and homeless situation annually. Each day multiple LPS members spend the day dealing with related calls/crimes/investigations of addicts/homeless/gangs.
Fire/EMS responses for overdoses and related homeless/addict issues take a big part of the Lethbridge Fire Department and EMS budget.
A quick calcutation for example of province wide fees for EMS to attend is $250 it not transported and $385 if transported. First Nations, out of province(additional $200), and seniors are billed directly to the ministries or agencies.
I am still waiting for the exact totals since the EMS responses listed on their AHS Surveillance website are wrong, only showing just over one response per day, but seeing and knowing the numbers, it is over 10 calls per day . . . but let’s say it is only 10 calls per day at $250 that equals $912,500 per year . . . and I know they get probably closer to 20 calls per day on average.
Now . . . add to that the fires from the homeless that have destroyed garages and vacant homes and the fact that EMS always has a fire apparatus respond when they are dispatched to overdoses the costs increase dramatically with all extra man hours/equipment maintenance-operating costs
Also . . . note that on the Alberta government website where the EMS fees are explained it also states “…The Alberta government provides funding for EMS. Only a small portion of the actual cost of the emergency health services (EHS) provided is charged to the patient, if they receive a bill at all…”
Millions are spent every year on police/fire/EMS services directly related to the addiction/homeless issues!
Add to that about $1,3 million annually is spent on the Watch program brought in to counter issues on the streets.
All the security needed in parks, venues, pools, library, etc., is close to $1 million per year . . . needed to counter addiction/homeless issues.
There are multiple contractors the city pays for and non-profits . . . and more . . . millions are spent every year so I disagree with what you say.
I agree, wages are a factor . . . wages of police, fire, EMS. contractors, non-profits who are dealing with the addiction/homeless issues.
I am still waiting for a more accurate accounting, which I requested from the Mayor and know he will have someone give me those totals. It takes time and right now they are busy with all of the budget issues.
We ignored police/fire/EMS budgets, even slashing LPS over a year ago, while allowing the addiction/homeless issues to grow and that has cost us and will continue to cost us more each year if we don’t make the right decisions now! We are following BC’s bad decisions that they used for 20 years, proving their plan is a failure. If their plans worked there would have been success and you wouldn’t see the almost 200 deaths in BC per month or the encampments, homeless, crime and high costs.
Want to save money and more importantly . . . lives . . . change is needed now!

Last edited 1 year ago by ewingbt
biff

good points – thank you. we are not onside insofar as the idea of having some power determine users and homeless to be mentally ill whereby they MUST be arrested and placed in mandatory holding to be forced to undergo “psychiatric treatment.” it is dystopic and contrary to one’s most fundamental rights. one ting if the person is waving or shooting a gun, or another weapon, or is attacking others, but quite another because a person is using drugs or is homeless. hope we might see eye to eye on that.

snowman

a taxpayer point of view the council approved budget is a piece of crap. I have view City budgets for over 30 years . The City Manager presents his operating budget 3.7%. increase over the previous 2%. The City business units present their requirements. For example Transit the decline in ridership loss at fare boxes look out you will see empty busses who pays operating cost fuel increases carbon tax,wages ,benefits no revenue requires a tax increase but transit has a special fund over $9million supossedly to by 13new electric buses $1.3m each or police hybrid vehicle $80,000 each. What is needed is George Cuff brought in. You the taxpayer get dumped on for over $33million waste reduction. 4000 tonnes of organics , 5000 tonnes recyclables called waste diversion the climate-minded mayor
.Why is there 75% reserve people in the north side resource centre daily some for over 2 years it is a reserve hotel there is a so-called Friendship centre on 1Ave s why is it not open to their people for warmth

biff

you have blasted us with increases that well outweigh what the typical person will get in income increases. you are a massive fail of a council – as is the usual at city hall. audit.