Hello, everyone:

As you may have noticed, council slows down a bit in the summer, with one council meeting per month rather than two.  Many committees continue to be very busy.


Council meets as the Finance Committee on Monday morning at 10 a.m. in Council Chambers.  You’re welcome to attend.  You can read the whole package for the meeting at this link:

Highlights include:

2013 Financial Plan

Each year, before administration starts drafting the budget for the following year, Council approves a Financial Plan, as a way of publicly debating and clarifying the principles we want to see reflected in the budget.  You can see the report and the draft plan, starting on page 4 of the package.  A few examples of what you’ll find in it:
• Direction to limit any proposed total property tax increase to Alberta CPI or lower.
• Direction to use that same Alberta CPI figure for cost-of-living increases to staff salary.  We have a non-unionized work force, so clarity of expectations is important to everyone involved.
• Commitment to set target figures for all capital reserves by the end of 2012 – we’re already well into this task.
• A continuing commitment to occupy any “taxing room” left by decreases in education tax, and send that money directly to capital reserves, to try to close the gap on the infrastructure deficit.
• A commitment to continue to provide public information on how our tax levels compare to a list of other Alberta municipalities
• A requirement for zero-base budgeting
• A commitment to minimizing borrowing, and to ensuring that any borrowing is paid off in such a way that the Town’s capital reserves are in an overall positive balance within five years.

The draft plan is short and is written in relatively plain English (as these things go).  Reading it is the best way to understand the Town’s financial approach and philosophy.  I expect we will see a few changes to the draft at the meeting on Monday.

Debt update

Occasionally, you may hear comments about the Town’s debt level, and figures may be tossed about.  But you can look at the real deal on page 20 of the package.  You’ll see that the Town’s total debt in 2011 was $14,925,292, it will be $12,203,979 at the end of 2012, and $9,547,574 at the end of 2013.  You can also see the reasons for the debt (Rec Centre, Seniors’ Housing expansions, etc), and you can see what interest rate is being paid on each segment of the debt. 


Council’s regular meeting is on Monday afternoon at 2 p.m. in Council Chambers.  You’re very welcome to attend.  You can read the whole package (it’s puny – only 154 pages!) for the meeting at this link:

Highlights include:

Digital wayfinding:

An intern, financed by a program of the Greater Toronto YMCA (!), has been doing some preliminary work on how digital wayfinding (on people’s mobile devices) could be implemented here.  You can see his report to Council starting on page 39 of the package.  I especially like the references to helping visiting pedestrians find their best route – often very different from the car route.

Economic prosperity strategy

We’re looking at preparing a long-term economic prosperity strategy, to help us meet the economic goals expressed in the Community Plan.  Step one is to ensure that we define “economic prosperity” in a way that is meaningful to everyone in the community.  The proposal is to work with groups of business people, residents and representatives of NGOs/non-profits to reach agreed-upon statements of what economic prosperity could/should look like in Banff.  After all, it’s not just about the total money generated in the community.  It’s likely to be about how economically secure households and individuals feel, as well as how economically successful businesses feel.  And there are likely some comments waiting to be made about what we are and are not willing to trade for financial profit.

The report that starts on page 47 of the package shows a range of options for a public engagement process to discuss this key definition.  I like Option 2 – having three discussion groups plus a larger resident survey. 

Formula retail and restaurants

You’ll recall that Council expressed an interest in exploring an idea that came out of the Land Use Bylaw working group -- a quota or cap on the total number of formula-based retail stores and restaurants that we will have in town.  This has been a hot topic of discussion for years, off and on, and now the planning department is putting a bylaw in front of us for consideration.  The idea is that we would state what a formula-based business is (one of 12 or more that are the same), decide which districts are appropriate for these types of businesses, and then set a figure for the total in each district.  I’m inclined at present toward 10% more than we have already, to give business people room to adjust – but I’m mostly interested in seeing what public discussion is generated by this proposal.

Council is being asked to just give first reading of the proposed bylaw, and to set a public hearing date for September.  Final decision on whether to go ahead with this approach, whether to tweak it, or whether to forget it altogether would come after the public hearing.

Historic designation of St George’s in the Pines Anglican church

Hats off to everyone who has worked on getting to this stage.  It’s very exciting to see St. George’s ready to be municipally designated, and ready to be eligible for a substantial grant to help with preservation of the historic building.  I’ll be pointing out a few tweaks needed in the statement of historical significance, but I’m wholeheartedly in support of this.  You can see the whole report starting on page 103 of the package.

Municipal bench-marking

Town manager Robert Earl and other members of town staff have been taking a leadership role in trying to get a bench-marking collaboration going in the province of Alberta.  Municipalities who are members would share information on their performance on key benchmarks such as the cost of maintenance per kilometre/lane of paved road, or the percentage of solid waste that is diverted from the landfill, or the cost of sewage treatment per cubic metre of sewage combined with effluent standards.  Having this information from other municipalities would let each member know how they are performing relative to others and who they should go to for best-practice information.  The province seems interested in supporting this initiative, and may kick in some funding, and each potential member is being asked to contribute as well, as there will be some start-up costs and some annual cost to compiling and distributing the information.  You can read the report starting on page 152 of the package.  I’m very much in support of this project, as I think it will lead to better transparency and accountability.


As always, any opinions expressed in this post are mine alone.  This post is not an official communication from the Town of Banff or its Council.  I welcome new members to my email list – just send me a note and I’ll add you in.  Similarly, if your inbox is just too full these days, let me know and I’ll take you off my list.