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.
“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.
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.”
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.
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: