Lethbridge city council approves CIP plan as questions continue about budget cycle process

WATCH: After five full days of deliberations and a postponement two weeks ago, members of Lethbridge city council approved the 2022-31 Capital Improvement Program budget in a 7-2 vote Tuesday. As Danica Ferris explains, the CIP process was questioned throughout.

Lethbridge city council has adopted the 2022-31 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) plan after a full week of deliberations in May and a postponement two weeks ago.

The recommended CIP budget was brought forward from the May 10-14 meetings of the Economic Standing Policy Committee. The plan was approved in a 7-2 vote on Tuesday.

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“Some councillors had requested some time for further community input and they wanted to deliberate,” said Mayor Chris Spearman. “It actually went forward and was approved very quickly today.”

Spearman was one of the votes in favour of the CIP plan on Tuesday.

“I think we demonstrated fiscal responsibility that will help the next council start off on the right foot,” he said.

But two of his colleagues did not vote in favour of the recommendations.

Coun. Blaine Hyggen was opposed, saying that while he can understand that the city is required to have a CIP plan due to the Municipal Government Act, he was against some of the items included in the budget.

“I struggle with passing a CIP where throughout discussions, there were multiple things that I did not support,” Hyggen said.

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Coun. Joe Mauro was the other vote against, saying in his 20 years as a member of council, he has never approved of the CIP process.

“I have always stated that I do not believe that one council should pass a CIP budget and another council has to accept and approve the operating budget that goes with it,” he said.

Mauro did not participate in three of the five days of CIP deliberations last month. He removed himself after voicing his disagreement with the process — a decision he says he stands behind.

“I did what I did, and I would not change it, and I don’t regret what I did,” Mauro said. “Because it seems to me that that’s the message that we need to send.”

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The mayor says while he’s happy with the plan that council has passed, he does see some issues with the process.

“I think it’s problematic that we have the CIP come forward in an election year,” Spearman said.

“I would prefer that it be sooner, but those two budget processes are huge processes, and to do them in one year is a massive challenge.”

Two weeks ago, council unanimously voted to task the city manager with creating a plan that could change the budget cycle process in the future.

Approved CIP Projects

According to the City of Lethbridge, members of council — while meeting as the Economic SPC — began deliberations with $74 million available.

An additional $6 million in 2021-22 from Federal Gas Tax funding brought the total available to about $80 million.

Council has approved a total of about $66 million in funding for projects from 2022 to 2025, with $64.5 million of that being unrestricted funding. Council also approved $10 million for future CIP projects, leaving about $15.5 million remaining.

Some of the approved CIP projects include:

  • waste and recycling curbside organics collection (amended at May 18 council meeting). Funding of $10,629,000.
  • affordable housing (new item at May 18 council meeting). Funding of $5 million.
  • electric bus and charging infrastructure. Funding of $399,400 in 2022 and $8,812,000 in 2023. A CIP amendment could also go to council later this year, based on new federal transit grant information.
  • Henderson Ice Centre upgrade. Total funding of $5,868,000 ($528,000 in 2022, $3,260,000 in 2023, and $2,080,000 in 2024)
  • SAAG facility enhancements. Total funding of $5,788,000 ($474,000 in 2022, $3,232,000 in 2023, and $2,082,000 in 2024).
  • Fire Station #3 – 16 Ave S. relocation. Funding of $4,848,000 identified in 2022-23 for the purchase of land and for the development of a detailed functional study.
  • facility assessment and accessibility upgrades. Total funding of $1.1 million over the years 2022 to 2025 for all outstanding work identified as high priority from the accessibility assessment.
  • downtown 5th Street preliminary design. Total funding of $1 million ($750,000 in 2022 and $250,000 in 2023).
  • Galt No. 6 Mine Interpretative Park. Total city funding would be $910,000 in 2023 of the total proposed project’s $2.7 million proposed cost.
  • Twin Outdoor Sports Courts. Total funding would be a maximum of $900,000 in 2022.
  • Civic Common Comprehensive site plan. Funding of $900,000 in 2022.
  • Westside School gymnasium upsize. Total funding of $850,000 in 2024.
  • Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden (NYJG) pathway. Funding of $660,000 in 2023.
  • Legacy Park Pickleball Courts. Funding up to a maximum of $650,000.
  • Fritz Sick Pool renovation. Total funding of $530,000 in 2022.
  • Warehouse District Area redevelopment plan. Funding of $350,000 in 2022.

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