LETHBRIDGE: City council has officially approved the cost saving initiatives to shave down the size of their base budget, or how much money they need just to maintain the same service levels they offered last year. The approval means they're starting budget talks with a projected property tax increase of 2.5 per cent per year over the next three years. The group will spend the rest of the week debating which new initiatives to add from the city's wish list, which could see that number rise higher. Included in the wish list are 10 proposals from the Lethbridge Regional Police, as well as funding asks from community groups like the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden, the Lethbridge Symphony Orchestra Association and the two local seniors centres.
Council heard detailed presentations this week on the new cost savings initiatives, which will likely bring some gains to the community. The first involves replacing 11,000 streetlights with LED lighting. Although the upfront expense to make the change is $7.5 million total, city staff says they're confident they can find grant funding to supplement the expense. The change is expected to save $1 million each year on electricity costs.
The second initiative approved by council Monday is purchasing a new snow loader and snow blower to cut costs the City has incurred through hiring equipment during recent cold winters. The new equipment will cost $250,000, but is expected to save $365,000 annually.
Lastly, city council change planned bus services in the Sunridge and Copperwood neighbourhoods. Currently, transit runs only in Copperwood every 30 minutes during the day Monday to Friday, with no service in the evenings and no service on the weekends. Originally, staff were planning to increase the service to both Copperwood and Sunridge during 2012 to 2014 to run every 30 minutes during the week and every 60 minutes on weekends and in the evenings. To save costs, they're going to slow down that service to run every 60 minutes instead of every 30 minutes, Monday to Friday.