Hello everyone:

Just a month until Christmas!  But it’s one of the busiest months on Council’s calendar, with all the work on the budget ...


Council meets tomorrow morning from 9 am to noon to start digging into the budget, page by page.  All budget meetings are public, and you are very welcome to attend.  A special note to those of you who are starting to think that you might like to run for council in 2013:  understanding the budget is key to understanding what new ideas you might like to bring to the table at election time!

We have already had one budget meeting, at which we received a large number of requests for funding assistance from external groups who are doing good work in our community, such as STARS, the SPCA, and so on – totalling over half a million dollars.  You can see all those requests at this link: 
Unfortunately, the requests total quite a bit more than we have in the budget, so council will have to review all of these during the budget process, and decide how much the community can afford to fund.

The order of departments coming to council is now changed each year, which is a very good approach, as council members have the most energy at the beginning of the process.  Last year, we started with the capital budget, then went to operating, commencing with Legislative.  This year, we’re starting with operating budget, and with “Other” (miscellaneous items such as the tourism marketing contract, town-owned lands, etc.), which has come in at the end in the past.  As the budget process goes along, you can see all the documents and the updates at this page:

As always, council is aiming for a budget that is at or below inflation for the services that are already in place.  New services are funded by either cuts to existing service budgets, or tax increases, or an outside source of funding or revenue.  You can see an entire report on “New Initiatives” at the link for the budget process.  These are items that administration is asking Council to consider as possible additions to our present services.  Council will consider, debate and vote on new initiatives that any councillors want to bring forward.

Throughout the budget process, the “Budget Tracker” document, which you can see at the link above, will show council and the whole community the tax implications of any deletions or additions.  This is a moving target, because any item can be reconsidered.  So, for example, Council might add a new program at the beginning, but realize by the end of the process that the tax rate is looking unacceptable, and then go back and modify or delete that program.

The Town of Banff publishes a rolling three-year budget, so we’re now working on a budget that predicts revenues and expenses for 2013, 2014, and 2015.  Naturally, the budget for the coming year gets the most attention, as the most factors are known.  But the additional two years are an attempt to predict where we think revenues and expenses will rise or fall.


The regular council meeting starts at 2 pm in Council Chambers.  You can see the entire agenda package at this link:


Here are a few key items from the agenda:

Banff Volunteer Centre

The Banff Volunteer Centre has provided a letter (starting on page 4 of the package) that describes their reasons for ceasing operations.  The Town of Banff has been the only consistent funder through the 15 years of the Centre’s operations, although other sources have contributed at various times.  The Board feels that the inability to find long-term, consistent operations revenue makes it impossible for them to continue.


A report, starting on page 40 of the package, describes this new publicly accessible portal for interactive maps and applications.  This was entirely internally created – no consultants.  There is a lot of good stuff on this site!  I will be asking why some of it requires Flash, and is therefore inaccessible from iPads.

Cave Avenue redevelopment

Many thanks to the many people who provided feedback on the Cave Avenue final design.  You can see the report, and the public comments, starting on page 42 of the package.  As you’ll see, some people are delighted with the design as presented, some feel it’s too wide, some would prefer angle parking, some would like speed bumps, and so on.

Council is being asked whether they would like to go ahead with the project as designed, or go through one more round of public engagement and re-design, which would put construction into 2014.  I will be asking whether there is another option, i.e. to incorporate some of the key concepts from the input we’ve just received, re-design, and go ahead with construction in 2013.  But that may not be practical, especially since the public feedback is all over the map, and it would be hard to be sure we had found the right threads to pursue.

I know (believe me, I know!) that many Cave Avenue residents want to get this construction done in 2013.  But if we cannot do a re-design and go ahead, then I will be supporting the 2014 option.  I believe that a re-design is needed, and I don’t want to go ahead with the existing design.  After all, it’s pretty much irreversible once built.  That’s my personal position – the majority of council may feel very differently.

Banff Centre Assessment

Starting on page 60 of the package, Council is being asked to approve the drafting of a bylaw to tax student residences at the Banff Centre.  There’s a long history behind this discussion, but basically, we would stop taxing the Professional Development Centre, and instead begin taxing part or all of the student residences.  Town staff and the Banff Centre have been discussing this issue for some time.  It’s all related to what parts of post-secondary institutions are and aren’t taxable, under provincial legislation.  I think we should draft this bylaw, but when we eventually come to the final decision, I am undecided as to whether we should tax all of the residences or just part of the residences, so I will be listening closely to the discussion as this goes forward.

Skateboard helmet bylaws

Council asked staff to research what is done about skateboard helmets in other jurisdictions, and whether we can regulate them here.  In the report that starts on page 85 of the package, you’ll see the answers:  not a lot, and yes.  Although I really wish that every skateboarder would wear a helmet, I’m not sure that we have the enforcement capacity to follow this up, so I personally will not be pursuing it further.


Roam will start operating the regional Banff-Canmore route on December 3.  You can read all about it here:

If you believe that public transit is important, please support Roam by riding the service and by encouraging others to join you!


The Town of Banff website can be customized for your personal use.  By setting up a profile, you can have the items that are most important to you at your fingertips.  For a limited time, setting up your My Banff.ca profile also gives you a chance at winning an iPad, iPod Touch, or a certificate for community classes.  Go to www.banff.ca, click on any of the tabs across the top, and then on the MY Banff.ca icon on the right side to set up your profile.


This week, Council has another budget meeting on Wednesday morning from 9 to noon.  Development Appeal Board meets on Thursday at 9 a.m.


As always, this post reflects my personal opinions.  It does not purport to be an official communication from the Town of Banff or its Council.  I welcome your comments and questions, and I’m always delighted to add new subscribers to this list!

Until next time -- Leslie

Hello everyone:

What a privilege it was to attend the Remembrance Day service and wreath-laying today.  It was great to see how many Banffites, young and old, wanted to participate.  Hats off to the organizers, who worked hard to make this solemn occasion meaningful for everyone.

Because of Remembrance Day, Council will have its regular meeting on Tuesday instead of Monday.


You can see the entire package for the meeting at this link:

Council’s agenda is fairly light on Tuesday.  The meeting starts at 2 pm, and you are very welcome to attend!  Here are the highlights:

Compensation review

Council has set a compensation policy that says that we will pay our staff at the 50th percentile for the work they do, compared to the market.  Every now and then, we need to review the external market to see whether we are living up to that policy.  This year, we did one of those reviews, comparing our pay levels to those of other municipalities, to those of other public agencies in the Bow Valley, and (where applicable) to those of private employers in the Bow Valley.

You can see the report about the results, starting on page 11 of the package.  I’m pleased to discover that we’re not looking at any big adjustments, and that 79% of our staff are already paid either at our goal level, or just above or below.  The report also notes that our pay system has become unnecessarily complicated, with 57 different pay grids, and recommends that we collapse similar positions into shared pay grids, taking this number down from 57 to 20.  It also recommends that we work with our province-wide pension provider to provide a range of different options for retirement savings – we now have just one option, a defined benefit program.

I believe that working with the recommendations in this report will take us to a less complicated and more transparent pay system at the Town.

The report also repeats the recommendation that Council has already approved:  to have a public committee examine council/mayor pay levels and make recommendations for the future.

Get Out Banff

Our FCSS group has been successful in getting a provincial grant to work on decreasing indoor and “screen” time and increasing outdoor time among Banffites, especially children.  Their report, starting on page 17 of the package, tells us about this new program, and reminds us that this is a goal we can all contribute to.

Banff.ca redevelopment

As I’ve mentioned before, the town’s communications staff won a contest for a free website makeover, cleverly saving the taxpayers around $30,000.  The new website is running, and new capabilities are being honed and tweaked.  Among other things, you can create your own “dashboard” now, so that the parts of the Town site that matter most to you will be front and centre when you log in.  As well, when the search function is fully operational, you’ll be able to search past agenda packages, something we have not had before.  Read all about it starting on page 19 of the package.


Finance Committee

Starting at 10 am on Tuesday, Council meets as the Finance Committee.  This is a public meeting, and all are welcome.  You can see the full agenda at this link:

A few highlights:

Pre-audit planning:  council will have a brief “in camera” meeting with the auditors.  This is done each year before the audit process starts, to ensure that every item thee auditors should consider has been mentioned to them.

Tangible capital asset policy:  as we have worked our way through the town’s financial reserves, we’ve had a lot of discussion about the reasonable expected lifespan for various capital assets (buildings, vehicles, heavy machinery, roadbeds, etc etc).  You can see the results summarized in a report, starting on page 4 of the package.

Operating reserves:  this report (starting on page 18 of the package) summarizes the levels of the town’s operating reserves, and recommends that we cap the “budget stabilization reserve” at 2% of total expenses.  This reserve is used when we are faced with one-time unforeseen expenses.  I agree with the 2% recommendation.

Third-quarter financial statements and year-end forecast:  As you’ll see in the report, starting on page 21 of the package, lower-than-expected revenues in several areas have contributed to a small deficit being forecast at year-end.   For example, low commodity prices have caused us to miss the mark on recycling revenues by $70,000.   The projected year-end deficit is in spite of good savings from the “hiring squeeze” – the town’s practice of carefully considering and sometimes delaying replacement hires.  Council is being asked to transfer $39,000 from the budget stabilization reserve to cover this deficit.

BHC shareholder meeting

On September 24, council (acting as the BHC shareholder) held a public meeting on the recommendation to change some of the user fees charged to BHC homeowners, for example, the fee paid when a homeowner sells his/her BHC home through the registered resale list.  This public meeting resulted in a range of questions that council asked the BHC board to respond to. 

At 3 pm on Tuesday, the BHC Shareholder will meet to look at the responses from the BHC board.  You can see the entire package for the meeting at this link:

The Board has attempted to provide background on the questions asked, and has also offered the shareholder two alternatives for the resale fee:
1.  The 0.6% fee, as suggested earlier, or
2. The present fee, with inflation added since 2006, plus an addition for newspaper advertizing.

This alternative has been offered, since the change in the mode of fee, from a flat fee to a percentage, had raised some questions at the public meeting.


Development Appeal Board meets on Thursday at 9 a.m.  Bow Valley Regional Transit meets on Friday at 2 p.m.


As always, any opinions expressed in this post are mine alone.  This post does not purport to be an official communication from the Town of Banff or its Council.  I welcome your questions or comments!

All the best until next time -- Leslie