Members of the Governance Standing Policy Committee in Lethbridge questioned the city’s communications department recently. Currently the department has 10 staff members that work for the team and an additional person who works as a communications strategist for city council. Tara Grindle, the communications manager for the city made a presentation on the Community Engagement Program budget initiative with an option of four tiers for the committee to look at which talk about future budget deliberations for the department.
Tier 3 was asked to be approved, which accounts for an additional $24,000 to be allocated during 2023, with funding increasing to $56,500 by 2026. Tier 3 also asked for an additional 0.5 full time employee to be hired along with funding for paid advertising and community engagement along with a community check-up phone survey to be approved. The motion was passed but not all members of the SPC were happy about the decision. Councillor Ryan Parker called the request alarming, citing concern about the future growth of the department.
“So at the end of the day I as a representative of the community who communicates with the community, I have to justify when we add full time employees. Because when you add full time employees, you don’t take them way. I can’t recall a time when- maybe we went through the KPMG report and we’ve done some cutbacks and all that. But we’re asking this department to grow another 30 per cent over this next budget cycle. So, as a politician what I’m saying is when you ask the other departments to live with less and do more and they’ve achieved it- and to some cost and some sacrifice and there’s been consequences. I see this department- and it’s scope created, but I see this department growing more and more.”
Grindle says the department put in 191 hours of overtime between May and June alone. The motion will be brought forward to city council to ask city administration to prepare Operating Budget deliberations looking at all four tiers for the 2023-2026 budget.