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Finance committee recommends $1M cut to Lethbridge police funding as budget review continues

Click to play video: 'Lethbridge police funding sees reduction on day 3 of budget deliberations' Lethbridge police funding sees reduction on day 3 of budget deliberations
WATCH ABOVE: As Lethbridge city council passed the halfway point of budget deliberations on Wednesday, there were some major cuts made to the 2021-2022 operating budget. As Danica Ferris reports, some of those cuts will affect the Lethbridge Police Service – Nov 25, 2020

In what was one of the closest votes of the 2021 budget deliberations so city council approved a $1-million reduction to funding for the Lethbridge Police Service on Wednesday.

All approvals made during deliberations this week are just recommendations of the finance committee. Revisions are allowed throughout the week, and the final budget will need to be approved at a city council meeting before the end of the year.

Read more: City council salaries, municipal census among items seeing cuts on day 2 of Lethbridge budget review

The difference came down to one vote, as council went 5-4 in favour of the cut. The city treasurer said it was equal to about 2.75 per cent of the department’s tax-supported funds.

Mayor Chris Spearman was against the motion, calling the $1 million an arbitrary number, as council ultimately decided to take an overall approach instead of voting on individual budget items for LPS; including the Watch program and the city’s community peace officers.

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Read more: Results of citizen survey a focal point as Lethbridge budget deliberations begin

A handful of other city services were on the chopping block on day three of the budget review.

Dryland mowing for the city’s non-irrigated turf will see reductions in 2021 and 2022, extending the time between mowing cycles to save the city $52,500 in each of the next two years.

Surface repairs and boulevard restoration will also see impacts in the city, extending the response time for repairs and restoration following utility repair work to save $33,000.

For a savings of $40,000 in 2021 and 2022, the city will make changes to public event support, reducing cleaning services in rented picnic shelters.

The city will also look to save money in snow removal, with the plowing of the 48 city-owned parking lots scaled back; the threshold to plow will move from two inches to three inches of snow and save the city about $76,000.

Read more: City council targets 0% property tax increase ahead of budget deliberations

A number of Lethbridge Public Library proposals were examined on Wednesday — following a presentation from the library on Monday — with two main changes being approved:

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  • Opening hours for the library will change from 9:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. on Monday to Saturday for a savings of $119,309
  • The facility will close two evenings per week to save the city more than $190,000

The Galt Museum and Fort Whoop-Up will also have their hours changed: both closing on Monday and Thursday nights for a savings of more than $95,000.

Read more: Lethbridge city council prepares to review 2021-2022 budget

City council is targeting a zero per cent tax increase for Lethbridge residents in 2021 and 2022. As of the end of Wednesday’s meeting, changes had updated the tax rate to -0.54 per cent in 2021 and 1.58 per cent for 2022, with plenty more to come in the next two days.

City treasurer Hailey Pinksen clarified that although the city would like taxes to remain flat for Lethbridge citizens, the changes will only impact the municipal tax rate, and depending on the provincial government’s budget, taxes could still increase in the next two years.

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The finance committee will reconvene for day four of budget deliberations at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday.

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