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June 2016 Mayor's Column

By now you've likely heard of European Elm Scale. This is an insect infecting elm trees in Lethbridge at a concerning rate, threatening the health of thousands of trees. This week, City Council voted unanimously to ramp up our treatment plan for Elm Scale and protect the valuable trees that make our city beautiful.

This step will help immensely, adding resources to treat 3600 trees - but that's just half the issue. It is estimated there are 11,000 elm trees in Lethbridge and about 5500 of these are on public property. We are allocating additional funding and resources to combat the pesky insects infecting the elms on City land but will rely heavily on home owners to do the same.

If we only treat City trees and their branches happen to touch a tree on private property, that hasn't been treated, the insects will continue to spread. This will needlessly waste the time and money spent protecting that City tree. I ask that you please be diligent in monitoring and treating you own trees.

For more information on the signs and symptoms of Elm Scale and what you can do to protect your trees visit www.lethbridge.ca/elmscale. If an elm tree on your property is showing signs of stress from European Elm Scale, contact a qualified arborist who can administer a pesticide injection. If you have an elm tree on your boulevard that needs attention please, email trees@lethbridge.ca or call 403-320-3850.

One of Council's strategic goals is to take a leadership role in the protection and preservation of our natural environment. By dedicating an additional $380,000 to this issue and putting our best effort forward to prevent the spread of European Elm Scale, we are striving to do just that.

Many councilors have been asked about the safety of TreeAzin, the product used to combat European Elm Scale. This product is produced from Neem tree seed extracts and degrades naturally within tree tissues. It poses minimal risk to applicators, bystanders, pets, bees, birds, animals, soil and aquatic systems. We feel very comfortable that this product is safe for our community.

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The Government of Alberta recently announced changes to the Municipal Government Act (MGA). The MGA is the piece of provincial legislation that governs how the City of Lethbridge and all municipalities operate and any changes will have an impact on staff and residents. 

Themes within these changes such as collaboration, supporting business and building better, more complete communities are also broad goals within our City Council strategic plan. As we move forward, we need to gain a greater understanding of the intent behind each of the changes so we can provide the best feedback on how that will impact the City of Lethbridge.

Municipal Affairs is hosting public sessions across the province on the proposed changes to the MGA. Everyone is welcome to attend the Lethbridge session which is scheduled to take place July 15 from 8:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. at the Lethbridge Lodge.

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The property taxes payment deadline of June 30 is drawing near. I know it can be a difficult time financially as individuals and families try to manage their tax payment. I encourage you to look into the different payment options the City provides including the TIPP program to spread payments out over the year rather than paying a lump sum. There is lots of information on this and other tax related questions at www.lethbridge.ca/taxes.

Each year, I hear from residents who feel frustrated when they receive their tax notices. As mandated in the MGA, we only collect what we need to run the City. In 2016, the overall average property tax increase was 2.5 per cent for a typical single-family home. We allocate taxes to homeowners equitably based on the market value of their homes. A short video explaining this process is available on the tax page of the City website noted above.

Understanding where your taxes go helps put into context why we need to collect the money we do. Here is a breakdown of where your tax dollars are used.

 

If you have any further questions please contact myself or another member of city council.

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There are many exciting activities, events and festivals that will happen across Lethbridge this summer. We will proudly welcome hundreds of participants, families and friends to what is shaping up to be an amazing Southern Alberta Summer Games – July 6-9. Our Canada Day celebrations, Dragon Boat Festival, Heritage Days and of course Whoop-up Days are just a few family events to enjoy. Before summer winds down, Lethbridge will welcome the world to watch amazing cyclists tackle a tough course as the Tour of Alberta comes to town September 1. I encourage you to volunteer or bring your family out to watch this amazing event.

As students wrap up another school year, I want to send a personal congratulations to all of our high school graduates. What a wonderful milestone you have achieved. I am continually impressed by the talented youth that call Lethbridge home. Whether the coming months hold more academic pursuits, a summer job, volunteer work or just time relaxing with family and friends, I hope you have a safe and deserving break this summer and I wish you all the best in your future endeavours.