Council update, 12 May 2013

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!


Council has a very (very!) busy meeting on Monday.  You can see the whole package at this link:

Here are a few of the highlights from the package:

Budget amendment and tax rate

Starting on page 69 of the package, you can read two reports about the impact of the provincial education tax changes on our community’s budget and on our 2013 property taxes.

If you’re a regular reader of these emails, you’ll recall that the Town has been steadily increasing our contributions to capital reserves (the “savings account” that the Town maintains so that future replacements of infrastructure won’t break the bank for the future taxpayers).  We’ve been doing that by “occupying the taxing room” left by decreases in the province’s education taxes collected from Banff.  We had every reason to believe that this trend would continue for at least a couple more years, given what was said during the election, and what the province’s mayors were told by the Municipal Affairs minister just days before the budget came out (“The province will not be balancing its budget on the backs of municipalities”!). 

Unfortunately, the provincial budget did not match what we thought we had been told, and the impact on Banff’s 2013 property taxes has been substantial. 

In order to mitigate the effect on taxpayers, town administration is proposing that we lower the amount going to capital reserves from this year’s budget.  I’m very concerned about this, as we have worked hard as a community to get to the point where we could see that our future infrastructure needs were covered.  This would be a step back from that achievement.  It’s always easy to cut contributions to capital reserves, because the effects are long-term, not short-term.  It’s short-term gain for long-term pain.  I want to discuss with other councillors and staff whether this is really the right way for us to react.

Even with the proposed cut to capital contributions, it appears likely that property taxes will go up substantially.  At a 6 to 1 commercial/residential split, which is what is being proposed, the overall tax increase will be 6.5% for residential, and 4.24% for commercial.  Compare this to 1.71%, which is what we had budgeted for, before the surprise news from the province.

Municipal election 2013

Starting on page 85 of the package, you can read all about the organization required for the 2013 municipal election.  Just a reminder here:  if you’re thinking of running, and are looking for advice or information, I’d be delighted to chat!  Start planning now, because October is coming up fast.  It appears likely that at least two incumbents will not be running again, and we need YOU good people to step up and offer your ideas and energy as candidates for council.

What is “economic prosperity” in the Banff context?

Many of you participated in focus groups, interviews, or online surveys to help define “economic prosperity” as we see it here in Banff.  The results are inspiring, and you can read all about them, starting on page 101 of the package.  There are some really meaningful themes that are common across the different sectors, including a belief in the importance of being worthy of our location in Banff National Park. 

This report is coming for Council’s information.  Phase 2 of the Economic Prosperity project will involve a steering committee working with a consultant to craft an economic prosperity plan that reflects what people have said they want to see.

Transportation Master Plan – some recommendations

The TMP is a huge document, with many recommendations, but only the ones to do with traffic management and parking are coming to Council tomorrow (more will come later).  You can see the report starting on page 183 of the package.  It does a very good job of summarizing the recommendations, the reasoning behind them, the public feedback, and what the next steps might be.  There are a surprising number that could be put in place this summer:  turning lane changes at Banff & Buffalo, seasonal turning lanes at Buffalo & Bear, summer parking spots in front of the High School, a “scramble” intersection at Banff & Caribou, additional parking through angle stalls on Bow Avenue (100 block) and by the library ... and many more. 

The one recommendation that everyone wants to talk about, however, is paid parking.  Just as I said in this 2008 blog post , I believe that paid parking is an effective demand-side parking management tool.  It seems incongruous that we ask people to pay to ride transit to our downtown, and yet we all pay through our taxes to provide “free” parking for private vehicles.  Parking technology has improved so much that we can be flexible with rates and possibly offer parking options to residents.  I think this recommendation is worth pursuing, and I will be voting to have staff bring back a further report on how this could be implemented.  If paid parking becomes a reality, I would love to earmark the revenue for transportation improvements.


As always, this blog post presents just my personal opinions.  It does not purport to be a communication from the Town of Banff or its Council.  I welcome your comments and questions, and I welcome new email subscribers ... although there will only be about nine more of these before the election.