Happy Mother’s Day, everyone! The mother robin that nests on the carriage lamp by our front door is celebrating by incubating four gorgeous turquoise eggs. I’m celebrating by reading my council package on the deck.
COUNCIL MEETING TOMORROW
Council meets tomorrow at 2 pm, and you are very welcome to attend. As always, there will be two opportunities in the agenda for anyone present to ask questions about items on the agenda. You can find the whole package for tomorrow at this link:
Here are a few highlights from the package:
Council is considering doing a full re-build of the Rec Grounds tennis courts (around $400K), rather than just a resurfacing (around $130 K). You can see the report starting on page 29 of the package. As you may remember from my last update, a complete rebuild would give us functional tennis courts for a lot longer, rather than taking a chance of frost-heaving and cracking again. I would like to do a complete rebuild, but I’d like to fit it into our long-term capital plans, so I’ll be asking about the relative priority of other projects and whether fitting this in would cause unacceptable delays.
Three reports update Council on goings-on in Community Services.
Starting on page 46, you can read about the Community Social/Recreation Assessment that will be done this year. Community Services staff will work with the public and focus groups to identify key social and recreation issues and propose the best solutions. A similar process in 2006 led to lots of great results, including the Affordability Guide, Banff-Canmore Community Bus, Low-Income Transit Pass, Community Greenhouse and Everybody Gets to Play. The information also helps Community Services staff continue their great record of applying for and receiving provincial grants.
Starting on page 49, you’ll find information about one of those grants: $39.9K to support expansion of the Get Out Program. This is a drop-in program that offers social and recreational opportunities for kids and youth, both indoors and outdoors. Thanks to this grant, more variety and frequency can be offered.
The Bow Valley Learning Council (formerly Bow Corridor Continuing Education Council) continues its great work, and you can read all about it starting on page 51. Better yet, pick up a copy of their guide and sign up for a course! You can find the course guide online at http://www.bowvalleylearning.ca/detail.php?course=all
2012 Tax Rate Bylaw
Council will be setting the tax rates for residential and commercial taxes tomorrow. There are two key decisions to be made.
The first is the decision on the tax split. This number establishes how much of our revenue will come from commercial taxpayers, and how much from residential taxpayers. It is complicated, because our average commercial assessment has gone down again this year (by 2.51%) and our average residential assessment has gone up (by 0.32%). Our financial plan identifies 4:1 to 5:1 as our ideal tax split range. Last year, we went to 6:1, because otherwise the increases to residential taxes would have been huge, while relatively little relief would have been provided to commercial taxpayers. Looking at the implications, I’m inclined to do that again this year.
The second key decision is what do about the decrease in the education requisition that the province is asking for. This year, because our overall assessment has once again decreased more than expected, the provincial levy for education has also decreased. Council's policy for several years has been to "occupy the taxing room" -- in other words, to keep charging the amount that would have gone to the province, and to dedicate the proceeds to our capital reserves. This is part of our plan to close the infrastructure gap, and to ensure that we have the roads, streetlights, playgrounds, vehicles, equipment etc. etc. needed for our community into the future. This year, however, the "taxing room" vacated by the province is $218K larger than expected. Council will be asked whether we want to continue with the policy of dedicating this saving to capital reserves, or whether we want to forego that money. I believe that we should continue with the policy – it’s prudent to save for future capital needs.
If we have a 6:1 split and if we choose to follow council policy on the capital reserves, then the average homeowner will see an increase of 6.8% this year, and the average commercial taxpayer will see a decrease of 0.41%. You can read all about this year’s tax rate factors and options starting on page 98 of the package. There are charts that show you the implications of different tax splits and different capital decisions.
Smart Parking pilot project
Council is being asked to try out real-time parking information via mobile device apps. This is a way of matching parking demand to parking supply by helping people find the vacant spots without driving around – I think it’s a great idea. The proposal is to try it for the Bear Street parkade this year, then expand it further if it works well. I’ll be asking whether we could try it for the Cascade parkade instead, since that’s the one people seem to have the most trouble finding. You can see the whole report (including a graphic representation of the system) starting on page 114 of the package.
Street lighting policy
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, Banff has a real patchwork of street lighting types, old and new. This policy (starting on page 124) is an attempt to make sure that we will be more thoughtful going forward, and that we will design any new or replacement lighting to be environmentally responsible, dark-sky compliant, appropriate in intensity and uniformity. It includes factors such as avoiding glare into neighbouring properties. Banff’s streetlights are owned by Fortis (351 lights) and the Town (290 lights). The changeover to a more modern system will be very long-term, but this policy is a good start.
OTHER COUNCIL ACTIVITIES ON MONDAY
Council will also be doing a workshop on Monday with a designer of skateboard facilities. Town staff have asked several members of the skateboard community to also attend, so that we can all be informed on the latest trends in skateboard parks.
Council will be meeting with the Library Board to talk about library levels of service and performance benchmarks.
THE FINE PRINT
As always, this email represents my personal opinions. This is not an official communication of the Town of Banff or its council. I look forward to your questions or comments. If you would like to be removed from this list, please just let me know. If you have friends who’d like to join the list, I’d be delighted to hear from them!
All the best until next time -- Leslie