Budget deliberations begin this week for Lethbridge city council. The group will meet as the economic standing policy committee to debate and craft the budget for the next four years, before forwarding it for approval to a council meeting later this month. Meetings start on Monday and will run all week.
The city is forecasting an average annual municipal property tax increase of 3.7 per cent for each of the next four years, according to the draft budget. This could be equal to an extra $94.20 per year for a single family home, based on an average market value of $285,800.
“It won’t be a zero per cent increase. There’s just too many challenges that we have and also hearing about what could be coming up around the corner here — if anyone has been watching federal government politics, you’ll see that there could be some challenges of a possible recession around the corner, so I am hoping that this next week here in budget as we deliberate the budget, that we do think about that and understand the importance of having our needs taken care of and sometimes the wants may not be there until we have a better understanding of what’s happening with the economy,” says Mayor Blaine Hyggen.
The committee already heard presentations from various community groups to request budget items — the committee will debate these, along with new initiatives brought forward by individual council members.
“The one thing I think that is of importance to me, I am one of nine on this, but it’s the police budget. I know we have struggled over the years with having the resources there and some of the challenges we have seen and so that’s something and then also looking at the homelessness issues that we have throughout our community and what can we do to help those? Those are needs more than wants in my opinion and it’s something that we definitely have to address sooner than later,” Hyggen says.
A couple budget items on the table to address homelessness include one from Councillor Belinda Crowson, which aims to work to create more social housing in the city. Councillor Nick Paladino also wants to create drinking fountains from fire hydrants so residents can have easy and free access to potable water.
The budget must be completed by Dec. 31 and will come to council for potential final approval on Nov. 29.