council update, 24 May 2010

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.