council update, 21 October 2012

Hello everyone:

Wow – what a whallop of winter!  A bit of a shock as I returned from a warm and sunny vacation. 

But I’m right back at it, as Council has two meetings tomorrow.  Before I talk about those, here’s a bit of information about an opportunity for input ...


I’ve mentioned the Cave Avenue project in my recent email updates.  As promised, Town staff have put up information about the project, including a graphic that clearly compares the width of the current road bed to what will be in place after the project is complete.  This is a chance for you see what is happening and to comment (pro or con) before everything is finalized. 

The link is here:

and the very informative graphic is here:


Finance Committee meets on Monday at 10 a.m., and you can download the package from this page:

Solid waste utility rates

The report that starts on page 4 of the package shows the analysis of how we are doing on the phase-in of the garbage utility, and compares the money received from the garbage utility fees with the cost of doing garbage and recycling.  At the present rates, there is a surplus, but a small deficit is projected in 2014.  The recommendation is that we keep the rates the same at present, in order to make appropriate contributions to the capital reserve for equipment replacement, and also to create a “rate stabilization reserve” that will help prevent fluctuations in rates in the future.

Resource recovery (solid waste utility) capital reserve

The next report (page 12) goes on to analyze the cost of future replacement of equipment for garbage and recycling.  It shows that we are slightly underfunding this reserve at present ($202,000 per year, as compared to a target of $232,000) but explains that the surplus identified above will let us close that gap.

Capital reserves summary

Capital reserves are your community’s “savings accounts” – the money we put away to make sure that when roads need rebuilding, or a sewage treatment plant needs replacement, or any other town infrastructure needs renewal or replacement, the money is there.  As you know from reading these emails, we have been slowly working our way through all the town’s capital reserves, comparing the target amounts that we should be transferring each year with what we are actually doing.  The result of all these discussions is summarized, starting on page 16 of the package.  As you’ll see in the summary, at present, overall at present, we are transferring $807,000 less per year to capital reserves than our target amount.  The good news is that the report states that we could possibly close that gap in 5 years, without overall property tax increases, by continuing follow the town’s policy of “occupying the taxing room” when education tax demands are decreased by the province.


As always, you are very welcome to come and listen in to the council meeting, which starts at 2 pm.  There are two opportunities during the meeting for questions from the gallery about the day’s agenda.  You can download the package from this page:

A few of the highlights:

Heritage Fund

Past councils set aside money to ensure that we could provide grants and tax incentives for the preservation of heritage properties.  This fund has been drawn down somewhat, and now stands at $130,000.  Starting on page 20 of the package, you can read about how this fund has been used, and about alternative proposals to add money back into the fund.

Personally, I believe that we should have this type of funding available.  Preserving our heritage buildings is a benefit to the community as a whole, and some of the costs should be borne by all of us, rather than falling solely on the people who happen to own the property.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

It is interesting, in looking at the report, to see how few private individuals have accessed this funding.  It makes me wonder whether we should have some different degrees of heritage preservation, rather than an “all or nothing” approach.  For example, if someone extensively renovates the interior of a heritage structure, but keeps the heritage facade intact, is that not better than a demolition?  There is a lot of opposition to “facade-ism” in the heritage community, but I think we need to consider that different properties may have different outcomes.

I’m interested in discussing a combination of a tax-supported contribution with an additional fee on demolition of heritage structures (with those revenues to go into the heritage fund).  I think we need to make it less attractive to go to demolition, while at the same time offering financial assistance with preservation.

Taxi fleet fuel efficiency

This report (starting on page 49 of the package) describes the means that various communities have used to encourage (or require) their taxi operators to use more fuel-efficient vehicles.  It makes interesting reading, but the best part is the letter from Banff Transportation on page 53, describing their commitment to greening their fleet over the next eight years, and talking in the most positive terms about how they plan to go about this.

Council honorarium

As you know, it’s always a struggle for elected officials to deal with the question of their own compensation.  At present, Banff town councillors make $17,950 per year, and the mayor makes $35,900.  Each year, council is given the option to adjust this based on an average of the change in Alberta CPI (consumer price index) and the % change in incomes of people working in Banff.  Although council often passes up the opportunity, I think that it is reasonable to ensure that council honoraria keep pace with inflation. 

This report (starting on page 54 of the package) provides that alternative, but also suggests that it may be time for council to convene a committee of public members who can make recommendations on council and mayor honoraria that would become effective after the 2013 election.  I think having this type of committee is a good idea, as it helps to alleviate the impression that some people have that council members are giving themselves unwarranted raises.

Outdoor rink costs

It’s great to see that the outdoor rink at the high school last winter cost much less than anticipated ($27,500 compared to a budget of $51,500) and that the recovery of the turf in the high school field went so well.  Kudos to all involved!  You can see the details starting on page 56 of the package.

How we prioritize road improvement projects

Town staff have done a lot of work to make the decisions on roadway projects both objective and transparent.  You can see all the factors that are considered, and how they are weighted, starting on page 58 of the package.

Capital project update

The Town’s “to-do list” is laid out in this report (page 63-75 of the package) , along with an update on how each project is proceeding.  In some cases, there are “before and after” photos, and some of them are pretty impressive.  In general, it’s been a good year for capital projects, with few having to be delayed.

Of particular interest is the work done to re-design the library entrance, so that it will be more inviting for everyone and also safer for those with mobility issues.  You can see a graphic of what the layout will be.


• Banff Housing Corporation regular board meeting on Friday morning.
• Bow Valley Regional Transit Services Commission meeting on Thursday afternoon.


As always, this blog post presents my point of view only.  This is not an official communication from the Town of Banff or its Council.  I welcome your comments or questions!

All the best until next time -- Leslie