LETHBRIDGE: Debate over axing more than twenty unfilled city jobs should end with an official vote next week.
Alderman Faron Ellis led the pack after a lengthy finance committee meeting Monday, urging his colleagues to set the vote for March 21. He wants to start by axing six of the 22.5 new hires for 2011, saying the act would send a message to the public and to administration.
"The 'steady as she goes' growth, with 4.5 or five per cent property tax increases every year is going to be challenged," says Ellis. "This council is going to challenge and critically evaluate that approach."
The six positions in question, worth about $500,000 in city funding, have been deemed 'low risk' to city operations if they aren't filled.
Police jobs also on the chopping block
Five of the new positions eligible for cutting are police officer jobs, new hires the force is actively working to protect.
Regional police chief Tom McKenzie was at city hall Monday to argue the new hires - three regular constables and two 'special operations' constables - will help his force keep up with Lethbridge's rising population.
If funding for the jobs is axed, he says he'll consider cutting other services to make the hiring possible.
"We have to assess what happens if we don't get the funding for those bodies," says McKenzie. "It's a time for us to rethink things, to evaluate a number of programs, to look at the impact on the community of those programs and to make a decision as to where we can adjust services."
Mckenzie says the Lethbridge region stands in the top three quarters of the province when it comes to police officer to population ratios. The local rate is one officer for every 547 people, compared to Edmonton at one to 520, and Medecine Hat at one to 552.