This story has been updated to include comments from Lacombe Police Service Chief Lorne Blumhagen.
The City of Lacombe recently passed their 2019 capital and operating budgets at their latest council meeting on November 26th.
As mentioned in their proposed budget, they were able to keep the tax increase to 2.8%, which is on par with Alberta's Consumer Price index, which means a home valued at $372,000 will see an increase of $87 next year.
One of the biggest changes was a reduction of $25,000 from the Lacombe Police budget, adjusting their contribution from the original $50,000.
Mayor Grant Creasey says, $25,000 on a $3.2 million budget isn't that huge of a reduction, and it was done so because of warranted but unsustainable increases to their budget of about 50% over the last 5 years.
“While that (the 50% increase) may have been warranted, and the police do a terrific job in our community, we’re very proud of them. In saying that, there are financial limits to everything, and they are going to be expected moving forward to keep costs under control and down to that Consumer Price Index.”
Creasey says he doesn't see a decrease in any LPS services in the immediate future, but it'll be up to the LPS and the Lacombe Police Commission to determine the best way to continue their level of service with a mild deduction.
“That’s precisely why we have a bunch of dedicated members in our community that oversee our police service as the Lacombe Police Commission, and I’m sure they will make choices that are in the community’s best interest.”
The Lacombe Police Commission and LPS Chief Blumhagen made a presentation to council to reconsider the budget decrease, worrying it would have a negative impact on the amount of crime in our community, which currently is rated low nationally on the Crime Severity Index.
Blumhagen explains that this doesn't mean their budget has been reduced
“They made the cut to our original amount; they didn’t actually cut our entire budget request. We’d actually requested an increase of about $168,000. Now they have reduced that increase to $143,000 increase overall. So they haven’t actually cut any dollars to our operating budget moving forward, just reduced the amount of increases we’ve requested.”
Blumhagen says this will mostly affect their long-term capital reserve fund, which helps purchase things like new vehicles or equipment.
“So when we’re making those purchases because some years we have to make larger purchases or replacements, we transfer money to those reserves. So as far as our operations go, it will have a very little impact for 2019, however, in future budget years there will have to be considerations on ensuring those dollars are in place to make our future capital purchases.”
Purchases such as new vehicles or replacing worn out equipment is where the money from those reserves usually go.
Blumhagen said this was Lacombe's effort to keep all departments on par with Alberta's Consumer Price Index.
Lacombe is one of only seven other communities in Alberta with their own police force.