Council email update, April 24, 2011
Hello everyone, and Happy Easter! What a glorious spring day - I'm headed out to enjoy it as soon as I bring you up to date on what's happening at and around council.
HAVE YOUR SAY!
LUB Phase 2
We've had two different rounds of public "kiosk" events at places such as Cascade Plaza, Safeway and Nesters -- thanks so much to the landlords and business owners and managers who have been so patient with us! I enjoyed the chance to chat with many of you about the Land Use Bylaw proposals, and I do hope that you went home and filled out the online survey. Just in case you lost the card with the URL on it, here's the link to the survey. Doing it is a great way to learn about the proposals, and have your say: www.banff.ca/ourlanduse
Different people and organizations have also sent us detailed letters with their thoughts about the Land Use Bylaw -- that's another great way to make your opinion known.
The federal election is important to all Canadians -- even more important to us because the federal government (via Parks Canada) has many direct impacts on what happens in and around the Town of Banff. If you missed the all-candidates' forum at the Banff Centre last Wednesday, or if you want to hear a forum where the incumbent is in attendance, the next forum is in Canmore, Wednesday April 27 (the date is wrong in the RM Outlook ad) at 7:30 at the Cornerstone Theatre. Bring your questions and I'll see you there!
TUESDAY COUNCIL MEETING
Yes, that's right -- the council meeting is on Tuesday this week at 2 pm in Council Chambers. As always, you are welcome to attend! You can see the whole package for the meeting at this link:
Here are some of the highlights ...
James Barkley will be bringing a request for council to reconsider having pedi-cabs in town. You can see his presentation starting on page 4 of the package.
Banff Farmers' Market
Jolene Brewster and Rene Geber will be bringing their preliminary ideas about how to do a farmers' market in Banff. Many people in town like this idea - it will be great if we can sort out the many issues involved. You can see the presentation starting on page 9 of the package.
Town of Banff staff and the Banff Legion have been talking about whether the Town should tax the part of the Legion which is taxable. The Legion's presentation asks Council to continue to exempt from taxes all parts of their operation, and describes their contributions to the community. You can see the presentation starting on page 28 of the package.
2011 tax rates
You've all received your assessment notices in the mail, and now it's time for Council to set the 20111 tax rates: the residential and non-residential rates that will be applied to properties in town in order to generate the amount of tax revenue laid out in the approved budget. This is always a complex decision, and seems even more so this year. You can see the whole report starting on page 47 of the package. Here are some of the major factors that are part of this decision:
- Change in taxable assessment: the economy has affected the value of properties in town. On average, the value of commercial properties has dropped by about 20% this year. The value of residential properties has increased by about 3% on average. That makes it likely that some of the tax burden of the town would shift from commercial taxpayers to residential taxpayers. Overall, the value of the town's taxable properties has dropped by 5.6%.
- The waste utility: this year, we phase in 1/4 of the new user-pay waste utility rates -- that means that your taxes come down and your utility fees go up. That makes it hard to compare tax rates year-to-year -- we have to keep adding the waste cost back in to get a true apples-to-apples comparison.
- The tax split: every year, council decides the "split" - the ratio between the mill rates for commercial properties and for residential properties. In the financial plan, council asked for a split between 4:1 and 5:1. However, because of the change in taxable assessment, we'd have to go to a split of 6.45:1 to have the tax percentage change be the same for commercial as it is for residential.
- The education tax change: this year, because our overall assessment has 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 unusually large: $855,000. We could continue to follow policy and send that amount to capital reserves. Or we could change the amount in order to try to keep taxes low -- but that affects all future years as well. So, for example, if we decided to pass on that savings this year to the taxpayer in its entirety, then 20 years from now, our capital reserves/infrastructure would be more than $17 million poorer. We have to balance short-term gain/pain with long-term gain/pain, and it's not an easy decision.
To help us with all this, staff gives us a series of scenarios -- different splits, different amounts to capital reserves. In the end, we have to decide -- which is why council members are getting very little sleep this weekend. All the above factors, and more, will be debated at council on Tuesday. I'll be listening to everyone's point of view, but my present inclination is to look for a split that recognizes some of the shift to residential, and to continue to make a substantial contribution to capital reserves, although not the whole amount.
Capital project update
Starting on page 93 of the package, you'll find a brief and informative report about how things are going on the various capital projects for 2011. If you have a pet project (tennis courts, say, or the community greenhouse), this report lets you know what progress has been made and what's next.
Thinking outside the box
Starting on page 99 of the package, a report with the unpromising name "Bow River Utility Crossing" contains some pretty exciting news. In brief: we have to reconstruct the pipes that carry sewage across the Bow (right now, they are 1968-vintage pipes in the river bed). The town engineer thinks that the most environmentally friendly way to do this would be via a structure above the water, rather than in the riverbed. He thinks we might be able to build this structure as a pedestrian/bike bridge, sling the pipes under it, and do all that for the original budget that would have been spent anyway on the sewer pipes. The pedestrian bridge would run from the south end of Muskrat Street over to a location between the Y and the existing bridge. It wouldn't require all the construction of approach paths and exit paths that was proposed for the Central Park location. I think this is an exciting and positive idea and I look forward to hearing more about it.
FCSS annual report and plan
I'm constantly amazed by the range of programs and services provided by Family and Community Support Services (FCSS). Starting on page 102 of the package, you can see their 2010 annual report and their plans for 2011.
BANFF HOUSING CORPORATION
Council will also meet on Tuesday in our capacity as the shareholder of the BHC. This will be the annual general meeting, so we'll be looking at the audited financial statements and the business plan for 2011 - both of which you can see in the package at this link: