Photo radar freeze puts Lacombe in budget bind

Freeze on new photo radar has $250,000 impact on Lacombe budget

The Alberta government’s photo radar freeze has blown a $250,000 hole in Lacombe’s police budget.

In a surprise announcement, Transportation Ric McIver said on Tuesday that no new photo radar will be allowed until a two-year review is completed.

The decision has created a major headache in Lacombe, which was planning to re-introduce photo radar next year and had built its $5-million policing budget around the expected revenues generated from tickets.

“It leaves about a half a million dollar loss in revenue for the city in the budget that we have already reviewed and tentatively endorsed,” said Lacombe chief administrative officer Matt Goudy.

Since the photo radar initiative came with about $250,000 in costs, the shortfall for the city will be about $250,000.

Besides losing photo radar revenue, the city will also get less money from the provincial tickets police officers write. The Alberta government is bumping up its share of that ticket revenue to around 40 per cent from 27 per cent — a $50,000 hit to Lacombe.

“The increased provincial take on the fines and this freezing of the photo radar has quite an impact,” said Goudy.

The province has also said it will no longer pay for forensic lab work used in police investigations, which means Lacombe Police Service will have to pick up another $15,000 in annual costs.

“It all adds up,” he said.

City council reviewed its budget on Monday and trimmed a proposed tax increase to 0.9 per cent from 1.4 per cent.

“I think it’s a palatable level of increase,” said Mayor Grant Creasey. “I think it shows we are, in fact, listening (to the public).”

Goudy, Lacombe police Chief Lorne Blumhagen and the Lacombe Police Commission, which oversees the department, will be crunching the numbers in the next few days.

A special meeting with council will take place ahead of council’s Dec. 9 meeting, when the budget is expected to get final approval.

“The timing of some of these cuts makes them hard to deal with,” said Goudy.

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