LETHBRIDGE: City council is dealing with more than $2 million in unexpected overhead.
A report released Monday revealed a $2.3 million dollar surplus in city spending for the year 2010. But city treasurer Corey Wight says it wouldn't be easy to return all that money directly to taxpayers' pockets.
"These are one-time amounts that go into the MRSR [Municipal Revenue Stabilization Reserve], so it's difficult to say that that can flow out automatically, because it's a one-time amount. And when we're talking about taxes, we're talking about every year ongoing forever," says Wight.
"If you put $1 million in the MRSR today, you can't necessarily flow out $1 million next year, because then the next year you need another million and then another million after that," he says.
Wight adds that city staff monitor the MRSR reserve fund and try to bring out "as much as we can" to relieve taxation over the long term. But in this case, the surplus amounts to only about 1.2 per cent of the city's total operating budget, virtually a drop in the bucket.
Aldermen may combat budget bloat by streamlining services
In the weeks leading to upcoming budget talks, council has signaled they will be looking to trim service levels and staffing for the next three-year term. Ald. Bridget Mearns led the charge to cut six unfilled jobs slated for hire in 2011, deemed "low risk" to city operations. And now others say they want to take a hard look at additional methods of reducing budget pressure.
"We're going to have a 4.7 per cent tax increase, without any new initiatives," Ald. Faron Ellis tells Country 95 News of current estimates.
He says areas like transit, where low demand and dwindling revenue are forcing the city to basically subsidize the service, will likely undergo a revamp.
"For my money, when you have a decade of doing things one way: you say you're trying to increase demand and that demand is not materializing, then it's time to look at other alternatives," says Ellis.