The City of Lacombe was forced to raised their Operating Budget tax rate from 0.9 per cent to 1 per cent after provincial budget decisions left holes in the Lacombe Police Service and the Lacombe and District FCSS budgets.
Council was forced to raise the tax rate, along with: Deferring the hiring of an asset management coordinator; removing a $35,000 contribution to the Community Builder Fund; and cutting some administration fees associated with city training. The combined cuts and the tax rate increase made up for a $131,125 hole in the LPS budget and a $55,000 hole in FCSS’s budget, combining to equal $186,125.
Councillor Reuben Konnik, who proposed the original 0.9 per cent increase, expressed his frustration with the Government of Alberta.
“I am a little frustrated that we spent all this time and did all this work and then the provincial government in their wisdom decides they will change things up. That really throws a wrench into things,” he said.
Despite the change, Konnik said a 1 per cent increase, which is below the 1.4 per cent CPI rate, is still an okay increase to have. He hopes the province will not force further changes during spring budget amendments.
“Should they surprise us with anything else, which I sure hope they don’t, we will be in a position to handle it at that point,” he said.
Konnik was pleased council went with the decision to defer the hiring of an asset management coordinator for the city.
“We are doing a service level review of the organization as a whole. I would be interested to see which other communities have that position. I’m glad we deferred it and we will take a look next year to see what comes into play,” he said.
Mayor Grant Creasey said it can be slightly painful when the province imposed decisions on the city late in the budget process.
“I would have preferred that we didn’t have quite as many curve balls sent our way after already enduring a lengthy budgetary session, but we made the best of it and came up with some reasonable solutions,” Creasey said.
Creasey said these choices by the province has affected other municipalities as well and that the City’s service level review next year will help them make good choices in the future.
“I am pleased we are undergoing a number of reviews so that we can be confident we are providing the level of service that our residents expect at a cost they can afford and are willing to pay,” he said.
Creasey said it shouldn’t be surprising to people the province is making these cuts given their platform, but hopes for more transparency in the 2021 budget process.
Hopefully these types of surprises will not happen after the municipal budgetary process is initiated. It makes it more work than it needs to be for our administration,” he said.