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2021-2022 Operating Budget Review daily recap

December 14, 2020, City Council meeting

Lethbridge City Council voted 7-2 to adopt the Finance Committee's recommendations to amend the City of Lethbridge's 2021-2022 Operating Budget.

Finance Committee met from November 23 to 28 to deliberate the Operating Budget with the goal of reducing spending to see a 0% property tax rate increase and a 0% utility rate for 2021. With the Operating Budget approval, the 2021-2022 average annual change in municipal tax rate is 0% per year. 


November 30, 2020, City Council meeting

On Nov. 30, Lethbridge City Council voted 5-4 in favour of tabling the budget recommendations of Finance Committee to the Dec. 14 Council meeting.


Day 5 (November 27, 2020)

On Friday, November 27, Finance Committee completed deliberations for its 2021-2022 Operating Budget Review.

On Monday, November 30, Lethbridge City Council will hear the recommendations and could formally approve the 2021-22 Operating Budget.

Finance Committee started the process with a 3.64% municipal tax rate increase for 2021 and a 1.82% municipal tax rate increase for 2022. As of Friday's meeting completion, the proposed 2021-2022 average annual change in municipal tax rate is 0% per year. These numbers are not yet final.

A reminder that this proposed adjustment would be applied to the municipal portion of residential property taxes. Individual properties may see a tax change on their bills for other reasons, such as:

  • A change in property assessment (the value of your home, business or multi-family complex)
  • An increase to the Green Acres Foundation budget or to the Alberta School budget
  • New construction or demolition

Property tax bills are specific to each property. Anyone with questions can 311 to get information specific to their assessment and tax bill.

You can also visit https://www.lethbridge.ca/taxes to learn more about property taxes.

From Friday:

  • City Utilities

Finance Committee voted 6-3 for A-35: Waste Processing, Expand Presence in Contaminated Soil Business. Page 45 here: https://www.lethbridge.ca/City-Government/Financial-Documents/Documents/Budget/2021-2022OperatingBudgetReviewDraft.pdf. This will generate additional revenue of $324,000 in 2021 and $324,000 In 2022 through tipping fees.

 

  • Lethbridge Police Service

Finance Committee voted the funding to continue on an ongoing basis for the Community Peace Officers, The Watch and Police and Crisis Team (PACT) programs. This will have no further impact to taxation.



Day 4 (November 26, 2020)

On Thursday, November 26, Lethbridge City Council continued deliberations as Finance Committee for its 2021-2022 Operating Budget Review.

The running and updated tally this week started with a 3.64% municipal tax rate increase for 2021 and a 1.82% municipal tax rate increase for 2022. At Thursday's end-of-day recess, the 2021 number is at -1.37% and the 2022 number is at 1.37%. The current 2021-2022 average annual change in municipal tax rate is 0% per year. These numbers are not yet final.

Please also note and distinguish that these decisions become recommendations from Finance Committee to City Council for approval at the November 30 Council meeting.

 

  • 311 Customer Service

Finance Committee voted unanimously for a reduction initiative in combination with the reduction in travel & training which will enable 311 to achieve the 5% reduction target. The main objective is to achieve the 5% reduction without affecting staffing levels which could have an impact on the Citizen Centric Customer Service Strategy. This will be a reduction of $17,300 in 2021 and $17,300 in 2022.


  • Transportation

Finance Committee voted unanimously reduce the annual slope repairs/monitoring and other transportation administration costs for a reduction of $56,000 in 2021 and 56,000 in 2022.

Finance Committee voted unanimously for a reduction initiative that includes the following areas: Property acquisition for Rights of Way and clean-up of existing Right-of-Way (ROW) issues; reduction in sidewalk repairs, pathway repairs and bridge maintenance. This will be a reduction of $55,000 in 2021 and $55,000 in 2022.

Finance Committee voted unanimously to consolidate a number of areas in Traffic Operations and Traffic signals. This will be a reduction of $135,000 in 2021 $135,000 in 2022.

Finance Committee voted 8-1 to reduce the amount spent annually on road repairs (potholes & patching repair) and sidewalk repairs. This will be a reduction of $200,000 in 2021 and $200,000 in 2022

Finance Committee voted 6-3 for a reduction in core street sweeping. This will be a reduction of $285,000 in 2021 and $285,000 in 2022.


  • Enmax Centre

Finance Committee voted unanimously for a reduction in total building cleaning for Junior Hockey. This will be a reduction of $60,750 in 2021 and $60,750 in 2022.

 

  • Facility Services

Finance Committee voted unanimously to reduce the cleaning service schedule in all administrative buildings, with the exception of Transit Park N Ride which would remain unchanged. The Service Contract would be amended to suit the scope reduction. This will be a reduction of $282,000 in 2021 and $282,000 in 2022.

 

  • Parks

Finance Committee voted 7-1 to reduce general maintenance in open space across the city including the efforts to maintain water quality in storm ponds, graffiti abatement, snow clearing, irrigation operations, and forestry management. This will be a reduction of $198,500 in 2021 and $198,500 in 2022.

 

  • Lethbridge Transit

Finance Committee voted 6-3 for Transit On Demand, which will allow people to book transit that will deliver people from an area to City Link in order to ensure they can get to where they require. The program reduces the need for conventional transit, and services low ridership areas with an efficient on call system. The will have a savings of $353,000 in 2022.

 

The draft budget can be viewed here: https://www.lethbridge.ca/City-Government/Financial-Documents/Documents/Budget/2021-2022OperatingBudgetReviewDraft.pdf

The 2021-2022 Operating Budget Review will resume at 9 a.m. on Friday, November 27. The meeting will recess by 5 p.m. each day and reconvene at 9 a.m. the following day. These deliberations are open to the public to watch can be found online at agendas.lethbridge.ca or on Shaw TV Lethbridge. Residents can also follow live updates on Twitter through the City Clerk's account at @LethCityClerk (https://twitter.com/LethCityClerk


Day 3 (November 25, 2020)

On Wednesday, November 25, Lethbridge City Council continued deliberations as Finance Committee for its 2021-2022 Operating Budget Review.

Please note and distinguish that these decisions become recommendations from Finance Committee to City Council for final approval at the November 30 Council meeting.

  • Corporate Budget Reductions

Items A-78 to A-87 (not including A-85 as it had been dealt with and A-84 as it was removed from the block via an amendment from Coun. Jeff Carlson) pass unanimously.

The total amount of these initiatives, which largely involve aligning with Council's resolution passed on June 29, 2020, to enact a corporate-wide expense reduction option of 5% and 10%, show a reduction of $2.1 million in 2021 and $2.5 million in 2022.

They can be found on pages 87 to 96 here: https://www.lethbridge.ca/City-Government/Financial-Documents/Documents/Budget/2021-2022OperatingBudgetReviewDraft.pdf

Several items had multiple options:

Dryland Mowing: Item A-75 voted for unanimously. Reduction of $52,500 in 2021 and $52,500 in 2022.

Surface Repairs and Boulevard Restoration: Item A-94 voted for unanimously. Reduction of $33,000 in 2021 and $33,000 in 2022.

Public Event Support: Item A-98 voted for unanimously. Reduction of $40,000 in 2021 and $40,000 in 2022.


  • Lethbridge Police Service

Finance Committee voted 5-4 to reduce the LPS budget by $1 million in 2021 and 2022. As amended, Police Commission will report back to Council with their implementation for $1 million reduction prior to Feb. 28, 2021, as part of their annual plan report.


  • Galt Museum & Fort Whoop-Up

Finance Committee voted unanimously to adapt a proposal on general service hours at the Galt Museum and Fort Whoop-Up which will be reduced from 53 hours per week to 42 hours per week. Both sites would be closed on Mondays and Thursday evenings. This will have a reduction of $95,131 in both 2021 and 2022.

 

  • Lethbridge Public Library

Finance Committee voted unanimously for changing opening hours from 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., Monday through Saturday, at the Main and Crossings Branch (reduction of 3.0 operating hours per week/branch). This will have a reduction of $119,309 for 2021 and $121,041 for 2022.

Finance Committee also voted unanimously to change evening hours for Main Branch (close 2 evenings/week) (reduction of an additional 12.0 operating hours per week at Main) for a reduction of $191,074 in 2021 and $194,234 in 2022.

 

  • City Parking Lot Snow Removal

Finance Committee voted 7-2 to perform less snow clearing in 48 City facility parking lots (reduce number of snow clearings/sandings per month and/or the response criteria). This will be a reduction of $76,700 in 2021 and $76,800 in 2022.

 

  • Parks Maintenance

Finance Committee voted 6-3 for a general reduction in parks maintenance to the Parks including pathway edge mowing, irrigated turf mowing, garbage collection frequency, sports field maintenance and mowing, mulch bed renovations and shrub replacement. This will be a reduction of $128,500 in 2021 and $128,500 in 2022.

Finance Committee voted 6-3 to reduce the ability to repair or replace parks assets that are damaged or worn including furniture, sports field structures, pathways, drainage and fencing. This will be a reduction of $75,000 in 2021 and $75,000 in 2022.

Finance Committee voted 6-3 to reduce the service level of playground maintenance throughout Lethbridge. This will be a reduction of $63,000 in 2021 and $63,000 in 2022.

 

  • Infrastructure Administration

Finance Committee voted 8-1 to reduce the overall level of service provided by Infrastructure Services administration to the Business Units that it currently supports. This will be a reduction of $16,500 in 2021 and $16,500 in 2022.

Finance Committee voted unanimously to reduce spending on special services, studies and contractual services. This will be a reduction of $11,100 in 2021 and $11,100 in 2022.


While the target this week would be applied to the municipal portion of your tax bill, individual properties may see a tax change on their bills for other reasons, such as:

  • A change in property assessment (the value of your home, business or multi-family complex)
  • An increase to the Green Acres Foundation budget or to the Alberta School budget
  • New construction or demolition

Property tax bills are specific to each property and we would encourage you to call 311 to speak with the Assessment & Tax team to understand your assessment and the breakdown of your bill.

You can also visit https://www.lethbridge.ca/taxes to learn more about property taxes.

The 2021-2022 Operating Budget Review will resume at 9 a.m. on Thursday, November 26. The meeting will recess by 5 p.m. each day and reconvene at 9 a.m. the following day. These deliberations are open to the public to watch can be found online at agendas.lethbridge.ca or on Shaw TV Lethbridge. Residents can also follow live updates on Twitter through the City Clerk's account at @LethCityClerk (https://twitter.com/LethCityClerk

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Day 2 (November 24, 2020)

On Tuesday, November 24, Lethbridge City Council continued deliberations as Finance Committee for its 2021-2022 Operating Budget Review.

Tuesday's session included decisions which will become recommendations from Finance Committee to City Council for final approval at the November 30 Council meeting.

  • Public Safety Communications Centre

In a 6-3 vote, Finance Committee approved a dedicated supervision staffing request for five FTE. This will be through taxation of $698,000 for 2021 and $698,000 for 2022.

  • EMS Dispatch

In a 7-2 vote, Finance Committee approved $1.2 million in 2021 and $1.2 million in 2022. The objective is to maintain EMS dispatch within the Lethbridge PSCC in support of an Integrated Fire and EMS response in the City of Lethbridge. Mayor Chris Spearman proposed an amendment to change the potential funding source from taxation to Municipal Revenue Stabilization Reserve (MRSR). It passed 7-2.

  •  Fee For Service groups

In a 6-3 vote, Finance Committee approved a 10 per cent reduction in the additional funding requests from fee for service groups. An amendment to have the funding source moved to MRSR from Fleet Services Reserve passed 5-4. An amendment to change the Southern Alberta Ethnic Association funding amount of $76,900 in 2021 and $73,900 in 2022 passed 6-3. The Allied Arts Council revised funding will be $86,010 in 2021 and $86,010 in 2022. The Southern Alberta Art Gallery revised funding will be $68,400 in 2021 and $68,400 in 2022. The Lethbridge Sport Council revised funding will be $49,500 and $49,500 in 2022. Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens, in support of new facility commissioning and operations, will have $199,071 in 2021 and $243,171 in 2022.

  • Business License Fees

In a 7-2 vote, Finance Committee rescind the 2019-2022 Operating Budget Council Decision on business license fees and hold the 2021 and 2022 business license user fees to the 2020 rates. The impact to taxation will be $33,000 in 2021 and $33,000 in 2022.

  • In Home Wastewater Services

Finance Committee voted 6-3 to continue the provision of In-Home Services on demand 24/7, but implement a charge for all blockages on the private portion of the property line in the Sewer Changes Bylaw, effective March 1, 2021, for an anticipated revenue of $100,000 per year.

  • Mayor & City Council Wage

Finance Committee voted unanimously for a 10 per cent salary reduction for mayor and council in 2021. The 2022 amount will stay at new 2021 amount. The projected savings will be $77,300 in 2021. Coun. Blaine Hyggen made the initial proposal at the November 16 City Council meeting.

  • Administration Wage

Finance Committee voted unanimously for a zero per cent wage increase for management non-union staff for 2021 at a total projection savings of $513,000 ($403,000 tax-supported and $110,000 utility supported and self-supported). An amendment from Coun. Belinda Crowson adding a zero per cent wage increase in 2022 passes unanimously.

  •  Mayor and Council Travel Budget

Finance Committee unanimously voted for a 50 per cent reduction to the mayor and council travel and training budget in 2021, with a projected savings of $56,000.

  • Municipal Census

After several proposed amendments, debate and discussion, Finance Committee voted unanimously to remove a Municipal Census with a one-time reduction of $158,600 through taxation for 2021.

  • Mitigate The Feral Cat Problem

Finance Committee votes 7-2 to keep $10,000 in 2021 and $10,000 in 2022 for annual grant funding for a Trap-Neuter-Release program for feral cats.

  • Non-Veterinary Funding for Animal Rescue Grant

Finance Committee votes 7-2 to keep $10,000 in 2021 and $10,000 in 2022 for funding for non-veterinary financial assistance for animal rescue groups.

  • Corporate Budget Initiatives Base Adjustments

Items A-3 to A-26 (with the exceptions of A-5, in home wastewater services, which has already been dealt with, and A-20, which was postponed) can be found on pages 12-35 here: https://www.lethbridge.ca/City-Government/Financial-Documents/Documents/Budget/2021-2022OperatingBudgetReviewDraft.pdf

For item A-26, Corporate Travel & Training, the initial 10 per cent proposal of $145,000 reduction in 2021 and $145,000 reduction in 2022, was amended to be 30 per cent for 2021 for a reduction of $435,000.

For item A-4, Reduction to Sanitary Sewer Rehabilitation Program, the $250,000 reduction for 2021 and $250,000 reduction for 2022, was amended to become a $350,000 reduction for 2021 and a $400,000 reduction for 2022.

The 2021-2022 Operating Budget Review will resume at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, November 25. The meeting will recess by 5 p.m. each day and reconvene at 9 a.m. the following day. These deliberations are open to the public to watch can be found online at agendas.lethbridge.ca or on Shaw TV Lethbridge. Residents can also follow live updates on Twitter through the City Clerk's account at @LethCityClerk (https://twitter.com/LethCityClerk).


Day 1 (November 23, 2020)

On Monday, November 23, Lethbridge City Council began deliberations as Finance Committee to begin its 2021-2022 Operating Budget Review.

Deputy Mayor Rob Miyashiro, who is chair for the meeting this week, began with an outline and by thanking administration for all of the advance preparation work.

Much of Monday's meeting was spent collecting information and hearing from various organizations to help Council in the decision-making process.

  • September 2020 Operating Forecast
    Hailey Pinksen, Director of Treasury and Financial Services, provided the Finance Committee with an Introduction and September 2020 Operating Forecast. "Overall, we are in a very good financial position," says Pinksen, referencing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 2020 Budget Priorities Survey
    Erin Roulston from IPSOS presented on the telephone survey that was conducted with a randomly-selected sample of 401 residents of Lethbridge between Aug. 26 and Sept. 6, 2020. Where possible, the results were compared to previous Community Satisfaction Survey findings. The survey can be viewed here.

  • What We Heard Report - Citizen Budget Community Engagement
    Residents were asked to participate in online engagement leading up to the Operating Budget discussions. The full report can be viewed here.

  • Lethbridge Police Service
    Simon Griffiths, Chair of Lethbridge Police Commission, and Shahin Mehdizadeh, Chief of Lethbridge Police Service, presented on Police Initiatives - The Watch, Community Peace Officers, and Police and Crisis Team (PACT). This item will return later on in the budget process for any decisions.

  • Lethbridge Public Library
    CEO Terra Plato says their goal was to find cost savings that do not disproportionately affect any particular segment of the population and minimize impact on customers, programming and services, and staffing. This item will return later on in the budget process for any decisions.

  • Galt Museum & Archives
    Darrin Martens, Chief Executive Officer, requested that council freeze the Galt's funding at current levels in order to achieve its strategic planning goals. This item will return later on in the budget process for any decisions.
     
  • Allied Arts Council (AAC)
    Suzanne Lint, Executive Director at Allied Arts Council of Lethbridge, explained the COVID-19 impact on AAC and how they have adjusted. This item will return later on in the budget process for any decisions.

  • Southern Alberta Art Gallery (SAAG)
    Kristy Trinier, Executive Director of SAAG, requested continuation of the increased operating funding provided by the City of Lethbridge in 2019 and 2020, for the remainder of the City's operating budget cycle, in 2021 and 2022. This item will return later on in the budget process for any decisions.

  • Southern Alberta Ethnic Association (SAEA)
    Dr. Victor Wutor, President of SAEA, and Jackie French, Executive Director, requested City Council continue funding for 2021 and 2022 to maintain operations. This item will return later on in the budget process for any decisions.
     
  • Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden (NYJG)
    NYJG requested the continuation of the New Initiative Funding N-79 for 2021 and 2022 of $171,190 to support the Society's operations. NYJG also requested one-time funding of $50,000 to support the commissioning of the new building for 2021 and additional one-time funding support of $99,000 in 2022 to establish and stabilize operation for one fully-operated year. This item will return later on in the budget process for any decisions.
     
  • Lethbridge Sport Council
    Executive Director Susan Eymann requested that the $55,000 New Initiative funding be extended to December 31, 2022. This item will return later on in the budget process for any decisions.

  • Business License Fees for 2021 & 2022
    A proposal was made for a rescindment of the 2019-2022 Operating Budget Report Council Decision on business license fees. If Council decides to rescind the decision and instead hold the 2021 and 2022 business license user fees to the 2020 fees, the impact will be $33,000. If Council decides to proceed with the business license fee increases for 2021, a bylaw would need to be adopted by the end of the year to be effective for January 1, 2021. This item will return later on in the budget process for any decisions.

The 2021-2022 Operating Budget Review will resume at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, November 24. The meeting will recess by 5 p.m. each day and reconvene at 9 a.m. the following day. These deliberations are open to the public to watch can be found online at agendas.lethbridge.ca or on Shaw TV Lethbridge. Residents can also follow live updates on Twitter through the City Clerk's account at @LethCityClerk (https://twitter.com/LethCityClerk).