Hello, everyone:

An interesting weekend for sure, between the wild weather and the ATM heists.  Council tomorrow looks quiet by comparison!

You can see the entire package for the Tuesday meeting (yes, it's on a different day this week, because of the holiday) by clicking on this link:


Here are some of the highlights from the agenda:

Parks Canada approves Phase 1 of Land Use Bylaw changes

As you'll see in the updates (on page 5 of the package), Parks Canada has approved the changes to the Land Use Bylaw that were passed by Council as part of Phase 1.  These changes came into effect as of May 12, 2010.  If there's a residential property close to you that looks ripe for redevelopment, you'll want to read the bylaw to see what is allowed in your neighbourhood, so that you won't be surprised when redevelopment happens.  You can access the bylaw here:


2009 Financials

The Town's financials are complete for 2009, and the results will be presented at Council, along with the audited financial statements for council approval.  All right, I can see your eyes glazing over as you read this.  Astonishingly, many people are unexcited at the prospect of financial statements.  But remember, this is the place where you can see very directly how your money is managed and spent.  Go on, roll up your sleeves and dive in!  Here are just a few of the interesting things you can discover in these reports:

  • on page 31 of the package, you'll see that the town had an operating surplus of $335,845 in 2009.  Council is being asked to transfer this money to the Budget Stabilization Reserve which, as you may recall, was cleaned out last year to cover the 2008 deficit.  Having some money in this reserve helps cover the town's expenses when financial results stray from the budget, so rebuilding it makes sense.
  • on pages 35 through 55 of the package, you can see the different departments of the town, and look at how they performed financially compared to their budgets.  You can also see how well they are doing at forecasting.  The "Q3 forecast" column tells you what they thought their year-end would look like when they predicted it back in September.  (This is information essential to council as it reviews the budget).  The "Actual YTD 2009" column shows you where they actually were at year-end.  If the Q3 number and the Actual YTD number are very similar, their forecast was very accurate.  If the Q3 number is somewhere on the line between their budget number and their Actual YTD number, then their forecasting was headed in the right direction. 
  • Also in page 35 to 55, you can see the notes for each department that tell you about the unusual circumstances that may have caused final year-end numbers to be different from the original budget numbers.
  • On page 56 of the package, you can read an excellent description of how municipal accounting is changing.  The town's assets -- YOUR assets -- things like roads and sewer systems and recreation centres will now be recorded as assets and depreciated over time.  To over-simplify, under the old system, if a town never spent any money on roads and sewer systems, their financial statements looked good, even though their infrastructure was crumbling around them.  Under the new system, we account for how we are taking care of your assets as well as how the money is spent each year.
  • On page 77, in Note 10, you can read about the town's long-term debt.
  • On page 80, in Note 16, you can see the disclosure, as required by law, of the salary and benefits of all members of council, plus the town manager.
  • On pages 81 and 82, you can read about the town's long-term contractual commitments, and what we have to pay for each of them over the next few years.
  • Also on page 82, you'll see what the town does to support related organizations such as the public library, the day care, Banff Housing Corporation, etc.
  • And, by comparing pages 85 and 113 of the package, you can learn, to your amazement, that the "consolidated" financial statements are actually a page longer than the "non-consolidated" financial statements.  Who knew?

All joking aside, however, this annual reporting of financials is an important part of the town's accountability to you, the taxpayer.  So I hope you'll take a look at what's here and feel free to ask any questions.  If I don't know the answers, I'll do my best to find out for you.

Hello everyone!

Thanks for all your comments on my last update.  Here are some highlights of what's going on now -- as always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback.


Wayfinding signs

You've probably noticed the sample signs that are up in the area near Town Hall, Nesters and the library.  (These are just samples -- the posts of the final versions will be much chunkier and more rustic looking).  The town is looking for feedback on whether the signs are clear and readable (font size, contrast, etc.)  By clicking on this link:


you can go straight to the survey to express your opinion.

Land use bylaw, phase 2

The planners are working on phase 2 of the bylaw revisions, and this phase will be of great interest, because it deals with commercial development.  There will be public input opportunities in May and June, and I will do my best to get notices out to you when these are available.

Coming soon to a neighbourhood near you!

Council was really impressed with the success of the neighbourhood "hot chocolate tent" discussions held by planning and community services folks last year, and wants to try something similar.  Over the next couple of months, as a pilot project, different councillors and the mayor will go out to neighbourhoods to answer your questions and to listen to whatever you wish to tell us about the town's plans, priorities and operations.  I will do my best to get notices out to you about when and where these sessions will be happening, and I do hope you will take the opportunity to chat with your councillors.  If these sessions turn out to be popular, I hope they will become part of the way the town works over the longer term.

The best opportunity of all -- the municipal election

Just another reminder that this fall is municipal election time.  Nominations will be taken on September 20th, and the election will be held October 18.  If you or someone you know is interested in running, Municipal Affairs has a website that will give you all the info you need:


Please think about getting involved in this election, as a candidate, or as the active supporter of a candidate -- and, of course, as a well-informed voter.


If you're like me, you probably find that you sometimes miss the Town's "large item garbage pickup" offer in the spring and the fall, and end up storing that large item until the next one comes around.  Now, you can have your large items picked up for proper disposal any Friday between May and November, just by making an appointment.  Read all about it at: http://www.banff.ca/locals-residents/social-services-programs/waste-garbage/unwanted.htm


You can read the whole council package for Monday at this link:


Here are a few highlights from the agenda ...

Bottled water in municipal buildings

Council will be asked to make a decision on banning bottled water from municipal buildings.  As I mentioned in my last update, I support this initiative as long as we make sure that access to our excellent municipal tap water is made practical for people (in other words, pitchers and glasses at meetings, re-usable water bottles available at the Rec Centre, lots of drinking fountains, etc.), and as long as we review the decision one year after it's implemented, to make sure we haven't seen adverse effects. Several of you expressed similar opinions in emails to me, although I have heard from a couple of people who said that they would like to see bottled water continue to be available at the Rec Centre.  You can read the whole report starting on page 11 of the agenda package. 

Tax rate bylaw

This is the time of year when council sets the mill rates, in order to collect the taxes needed to fund the budget that was approved earlier in the year.  You can read the entire report about this starting on page 25 of the package.  Two major things have changed since the budget was approved.

First, our estimates of what the education taxes would be and what the Bow Valley Housing requisition would be turned out to be a bit high -- both those sets of taxes are coming in slightly lower than expected.  Over the past several years, council has had a policy of using "taxing room" provided by opportunities such as this to increase our contributions to capital reserves.  Capital reserves are the town's "savings account", by which we prepare for all the capital projects that need to be done now and in the future -- repaving roads, replacing utility lines, planting trees, building the rec centre, etc. etc. Council is being asked to do the same thing this year, and I am inclined to agree, because I think it is prudent for us to have money in place for projects, and use borrowing only as a last resort.  But it is important to be clear -- the alternative to putting this extra money into the capital reserves is to choose to provide a slightly lower tax rate instead.  Council has to make this choice on Monday. 

Second, because of the tough economic climate, property assessments have dropped across the board, but they have dropped more in the commercial sector than in the residential sector.  This means that if we stay with a 4:1 tax split, residential taxes will go up noticeably, and commercial taxes will go down very slightly.  For this reason, admministration is showing us the alternative of a 5:1 tax split to consider.  As I mentioned last year, I believe that residents were promised at least a 4:1 tax split at the time of incorporation, so I have trouble when it goes in the other direction, say 3.5:1.  But splits above 4:1 are within what residents were promised, so I am keen to look at this option.

Cave Avenue, BHC and Parks Canada

You've probably been reading in the paper about the discussion between Parks Canada and the Banff Housing Corporation board about the value of the lots on Cave that were proposed for value-priced, small-unit multi-family housing.  Starting on page 35 of the package, you can read the history of this discussion, as seen by the BHC and also as seen by Parks Canada.  It will be interesting to see in the meeting if there are any suggestions for a way forward.


As always, this blog entry represents my personal point of view and does not purport to represent the position of the Town of Banff or its Council.  I welcome your comments and questions.