Hello everyone:

I’m sure you’re all in the midst of Christmas parties and preparations, but you may find yourselves with a few moments to catch up on what’s going on at Council.  We’ve been incredibly busy with budget meetings and the launch of the Banff-Canmore regional transit, but I think we are nearly through this stretch.  Here are a few of the things you might want to know about ...


Council will meet to discuss the capital and operating budgets, starting tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.  You’re very welcome to attend!  We’ve been through both budgets once, and I think it is likely that we will pass the budgets tomorrow – although it’s not over ‘til it’s over.  You can see the “budget tracker” at this link:


The budget tracker attempts to summarize all the factors that have contributed to our present point on the operating budget.  If all stays as is, we will pass an operating budget tomorrow that will result in approximately a 1.71% increase on the average Banffite’s overall property taxes.  However, that figure alone is not the whole story, because (as you keen readers will remember!) we are still in the process of phasing the garbage/recycling utility out of taxes and into a utility fee.  So your utility fee will go up this year – and, for continued transparency, the budget tracker shows you the whole story, with the utility changes. 

What does all this mean in real terms?  The estimated impact on the average Banff residence is $10.34 per month, including both the tax increase and the waste utility phase-in.

I’m also pleased to report that the budget, within that 1.71% tax increase, allows for increasing our contribution to capital reserves.  I know that I tend to go on and on about this, but it is so important for a municipality to save appropriately for the future replacement of infrastructure.  You hear a lot about Canada’s “infrastructure deficit”.  Here in Banff, our community has been prudent about dealing with that.

You can see the whole agenda package for this budget meeting at this link:


Council will meet at 2 pm on Monday, and you are more than welcome to attend.  There are two times in the agenda when you are welcome to ask questions about items on the day’s agenda.  You can see the whole agenda package at this link:


Highlights from tomorrow’s meeting include:

Shine and Banff Community Foundation presentations

Lorraine Widmer-Carson, the ED of the Banff Community Foundation, will be presenting information to council about the successful Shine 2012 event and future plans for Shine.  As well, she will present the Foundation’s Report to the Community.  It’s always exciting to see the good work that the Foundation is doing.  You can see the written background for Lorraine’s presentations starting on page 4 of the package.

Suggestion for a binding referendum on formula franchise outlets

Daren Krentz will be presenting this suggestion and a suggested question.  You can see his written backgrounder starting on page 20 of the package.

A bylaw regarding taxation of student dormitories

What parts of The Banff Centre should and should not be paying property taxes has been a topic of discussion in the community for a long time.  Not long ago, the province and our assessor suggested that we should be taking a closer look at this.  As a result, Town staff and the Banff Centre have had some discussions about various approaches. You can see the report, starting on page 31 of the package. The proposed bylaw would result in the Town taxing student “dormitories”.  (apparently that’s the expression that’s used – I don’t really think of the student accommodation at the Centre as “dormitories”!)  I’m interested in whether there are other “student dormitories” in town that would be affected – or whether they are already paying taxes.  Also, because The Banff Centre representative was unable to attend the last time Council discussed this, I’d like to just pass first reading, to ensure they have appropriate time to react and to speak to Council.

Contracting out water/sewer/stormwater utility – a proposal

As you keen readers will recall, the Town contracts out the running of the wastewater treatment plant to Epcor.  Wastewater treatment has been done by contractors since the Town’s incorporation in 1990.

Starting on page 34 of the package, you’ll see a report asking whether Council would like to see a price for contracting out water, sewer and storm sewer as an entire package, so that we can compare that price to in-house costs.  Saying yes tomorrow would not mean that we are going to contract.  It would just mean that we’d like town staff and Epcor to discuss pricing, so that we would know whether it would be a better option.  The Town would remain the owner of the systems – this would just be one means of operating them.

One problem that this could possibly help us with is attracting and retaining certified staff.  Provincial regulations require us to have people with certain levels of certification.  There are few of these people in the province and they are in high demand.  It’s hard for small municipalities to hold onto them.  It’s somewhat easier for a larger operator, such as Epcor, which can offer promotion potential and can share operators among more than one job site.

I’m inclined to agree that we should look into this.

Commercial allotment allocation

You will recall that a commercial growth cap of 350,000 additional square feet was established in 1998.  Since then, 197,819 sq ft have been built, 119,060 sq ft have been allocated but not yet built, and 33,121 sq ft remain to be allocated by the Town.  Space that has been allocated and not built expires after five years, so some of that may eventually come back to the town.  You can see the entire report, starting on page 42 of the package.

Council is being asked to make the remaining space available for a lottery-style allocation in 2013.  I’m a little baffled by this, as I had understood that we were awaiting recommendations from the planners about ways to ensure that the final space allocations meet the most pressing needs of the community.  I will be asking about this before voting.


Council will be given an update on the progress of the Smart Parking project, which aims to make it possible for visitors to use their mobile devices to find available parking stalls on busy days.  I think this is a great way to diminish visitor irritation and to ensure that we are using what parking we have effectively.  Read all about it, starting on page 46 of the package.


Bow Valley Transit

The transit commission will meet on Wednesday afternoon.  I look forward to our re-cap of the Banff-Canmore launch.  I rode the service on its first day of operation and enjoyed the experience very much!

Meeting with Banff Lake Louise Tourism

Council has its annual meeting with BLLT on Wednesday>  The Mayor represents us on the BLLT board, but it’s always good to have an update that everyone attends.


As always, this email presents only my point of view.  It does not purport to be an official communication of the Town of Banff or its Council.  I welcome your questions and comments, and I welcome new subscribers!

All the best until next time -- Leslie