Lethbridge city council had its first discussion Monday on phase one of the three-year fiscal and operational review. Some of the plans being explored and voted on are ruffling feathers.
The fiscal and operational review was done by KPMG, which offered several options on how to curb city spending.
Council previously heard Lethbridge has the second-highest tax jurisdiction in the province.
Council voted unanimously to explore ownership and operational options for the Enmax Centre, which currently receives 15 per cent of its support from tax dollars.
Council also voted unanimously to not renew the school bus operations contract when it expires in 2020, putting the responsibility on the school boards. The mayor said he voted in favour of the resolution because he feels the city should not carry the risk and liability for school buses.
The vote to not renew the contract comes after members of both the public and Catholic divisions met with the mayor last week, asking to keep the current system in place.
The school divisions released a joint statement after the vote and said: “Lethbridge School Division and Holy Spirit Catholic School Division have raised concerns related to the City of Lethbridge’s Fiscal and Operational Performance Review, and the recommendation to sever the collaborative relationship currently in place to provide school transportation services.”
Holy Spirit Catholic School Division Supt. Chris Smeaton added: “This would be a devastating change for parents in Lethbridge who are used to not having this burden, thanks to the partnership currently in place with the City of Lethbridge and the two school divisions.”
The release issued by the school divisions said it came as a surprise to them that busing costs exceed revenues.
“While the partnership has never been about making a profit, it has always been our intent that it operates on a cost-recovery basis,” said Smeaton. “We’ve never been told that this has not been the case.”
The report also identified Lethbridge’s Access-A-Ride as a large taxpayer expense. A resolution to have the city manager look at eligibility criteria and levels of service also passed unanimously.
The city manager will now put together reports on each of the resolutions requesting a review, and present most of those findings to city council in June.