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0% tax increase in 2021 and 2022 as Lethbridge finance committee completes budget review

Click to play video 'Lethbridge city council completes week-long budget review' Lethbridge city council completes week-long budget review
WATCH ABOVE: Members of Lethbridge city council met for the final time this week as the finance committee, completing a review of the city’s operating budget. As Danica Ferris reports, nothing is final until the amendments are approved at a city council meeting. – Nov 27, 2020

After a week of deliberations, Lethbridge city council completed its budget review as the finance committee, meeting its target of a zero per cent tax increase for Lethbridge residents in 2021 and 2022.

The recommendations made by the finance committee will not be final until passed at a city council meeting on Nov. 30. The zero per cent tax increase is just for the municipal portion of property tax bills.

Lethbridge residents could still see property taxes go up depending on the provincial government’s budget.

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

At the end of deliberations on Friday afternoon, council reached a 1.4 per cent municipal tax decrease for 2021 and a 1.4 per cent increase for 2022, averaging a flat rate over the next two years.

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On their way to that final number, members of city council still had some decisions to make.

The Lethbridge Airport’s budget for 2021 and 2022 has been approved by the finance committee as part of the recommended operating budget.

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

And after recommending a $1 million reduction in the Lethbridge Police Service (LPS) budget earlier this week, the finance committee was once again required to make decisions regarding police.

The Community Peace Officer (CPO), Watch, and Police and Crisis Team (PACT) programs had conditional funding that required a ruling and there was some confusion amongst members of council about how that conditional funding related to the million dollar cut.

Ultimately all three initiatives were carried, with the dollars coming from the city’s base budget and not impacting taxation.

Read more: Lethbridge Community Peace Officers sworn in, ready to begin field training

The CPO program is the most expensive of the three initiatives, coming in at more than $1.4 million in each of the next two years, while the Watch will cost $761,802 in 2021 and $768,202 in 2022. PACT rings in at about $130,000.

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The final recommended budget will be presented by Coun. Rob Miyashiro, chair of the finance committee, at Monday’s meeting of city council. The report will appear as an omnibus resolution that could be further amended if members of council wish to do so.

The city is required to have an approved budget before the end of the year.