Thursday, June 19, 2014

Lots of rain and garbage, now some celebration.

I know its been a while:

Couple of things, first of all a big pat on the back for Municipal Administration, all of our CUPE members, Fire/Rescue departments, other various volunteer groups, contractors, outside agencies and any one else that helped out during the events of the last few days. Everybody was well prepared, very proactive instead of reactive, things could have been a lot worse. (And lastly kudo's to my fellow members of council)

Lets not forget the bins are parked at the Coleman Sportsplex waiting to be filled, I was told by the landfill that it was going very well until the rain started. I have heard some complaints but please keep in mind this is the first time we will take your input and make the program better.

This weekend we also have the Hillcrest mine disaster 100th memorial and Bellcrest days.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Crowsnest Pass Council Update

Council Update

May 13, 2014- A lot of positive things are happening that will bode well for the community in the years ahead. We would like to update the taxpayers on our progress in the areas of concern we previously identified. 
Our CAO is rebuilding our Administrative team, a new Director of Finance & Corporate Services is now on board and we will have a new Director of Planning, Engineering & Operations in place May 20, 2014.
During the last few months, the municipal budget and mill rate were set for 2014 thanks to the hard work of Administration and the commitment of Council, the monies collected by the municipality did not increase.
Taxes
Due to the way Municipalities are governed by the Provincial Assessment process, the Municipality realized 4.1% reduction in total assessment and a shifting of assessment from the older properties to the newer properties. Some properties may have had an assessment increase but a number of properties would have a reduction as well.
For example, if you had an assessment of $300,000 last year, you would have had to pay $1828.00 in taxes. Taking that same property in 2014, assuming the value dropped the average of 4.1%, your property would be assessed at $287,700, which at today mill rate would equates to $1828.00 in taxes.
Unfortunately, if your decrease in assessment was less than 4.1% or you had an assessment increase from last year your taxes may have gone up, on the other hand if your decrease in assessment was more than 4% then you would see a tax reduction. We would advise residents that if they have a question about their property assessment to contact the municipal office at 403-562-8833 and set up an appointment with our Assessor Glen Snelgrove.
Land Issues
We are working with the creditors of Crowsnest Mountain Resort to resolve the outstanding issues with the Wolfstone Development.
The Crowsnest Centre site has been cleaned up according to the agreement reached between the contractor and the previous administration. Administration is working on a solution to dispose of or recycle the piles of broken concrete and bricks on the site.
Legal Issues
Mayor, Council and/or Administration have had meetings with both Chinook Pipelines and the Smoke Eaters. All sides have indicated a willingness to resolve their outstanding issues without tremendous amounts of dollars being wasted on the legal process.
Labour
Council and Administration have made rebuilding the relationship with our employees a priority. There are still issues, but thanks to a lot of hard work between our administration, CUPE leaders and membership, we feel we are making progress.
Flood repairs are well underway with the initial contractor work being done on Lyons Creek, Byron Creek and Drum Creek.
Development appears to be on the rebound and so far this year we have approved permits for 30% more than we did in the same timeframe last year. Soon we will be seeking public input to help us improve the Municipal Development Plan and the Land Use Bylaw.
Other Issues
We are reviewing the terms of reference of all our committees. We will be looking strategically at ways to better market our community. Once our entire Administrative team is in place and the outstanding workload is caught up, we will begin the strategic planning and the budget process for next year with a goal of how we can maximize the services we provide to our taxpayers with as little impact as possible on your pocket books.
To conclude, we have a Council that is working well together, and we are building a strong, experienced administrative team. Development is on the upswing, taxes are being kept in line and contentious issues are being dealt with.
Thank you for your support and patience.
Mayor and Council

Monday, May 12, 2014

Clean up in the Crowsnest Pass-Service Plus

Service Plus Program Dates Announced


The Service Plus Program is a new initiative designed to allow residents to bring large items for disposal to locations throughout the community.  This program is a cost-effective solution that will allow residents to conduct “Spring Clean Ups” without incurring the costs and travel needed to take items to the landfill.  There will be a bin for metal and a bin for regular waste at the sites listed below.  Please bring electronics and paint to the Recycling Roundup at the Crowsnest Sports Complex in Coleman on Saturday, June 21, 2014 from 9:00 – 2:00 pm.   For more information please contact the Operations Department at (403) 563-2220.

Blairmore
Blairmore Shop
12525 21 Avenue
June 12-14th, 2014
9am – 4 pm
Hillcrest
Hillcrest Shop
22201 9 Avenue
June 16-18th, 2014
9 am - 4 pm
Coleman
Sports Complex
8702 22 Avenue
June 19-21st, 2014
9am – 4 pm

Several things to keep in mind we used to have a spring clean up that was highly in efficient and very expensive (Between $150,000 and $400,000 a year). This is an attempt on council's part to bring back a service on a trail basis to see if it can be done in a cost effective and efficient manner.  If this is successful it will be hopefully expanded next year, now for this year it is just in the three locations because they are one's where the bins can be supervised while they are open. There is nothing that says next year we can't look at other locations if we can find a way to secure them.



Friday, May 9, 2014

Russell Farmer Report-Viability Review

Just had a conversation with one of our residents regarding one of the recommendations in the Russell Farmer report specifically #86 which states the following:

86. Council requests a viability review by the Minister of Municipal Affairs

The full report is available at the following address:  http://www.crowsnestpass.com/public/download/documents/4855

First of all I do not think there is any one person in the Crowsnest Pass that agreed with everything in the report, there was a lot of good stuff in there but there was one particular recommendation I disagreed with.
That being the one I am referring to above I stated very clearly why in the following post right after the report was released. http://crowsnestpasshome.blogspot.ca/2013/09/crowsnest-pass-municipal-inspection_19.html

There was no legal obligation on either the last council or this one to accept "all" the recommendations of the report. I did then and do now believe that this community is "viable". There are many communities in this province that have there internal squabbles and struggle with finances. Does that mean we throw in the towel and ask our neighbors to come rescue us? I don't think so.


Note if you still have concerns or questions about your assessment please contact the office at 562-8833 and make an appointment to see our Assessor Glen Snelgrove.    

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Why did my taxes go up?

Every year at this time we talk about taxes, the way we calculate our taxes in Alberta can be very confusing it takes a lot of time and effort to fully understand the process.

The taxpayers here over all are in a position this year of having no additional tax dollars taken out of their pockets than last year. Unfortunately that does not mean that nobody received a tax increase this year I will explain.

Tax rates in Alberta are set by the combination of two factors "Marketplace Assessment and Mill rate", each year our Assessor must determine the Assessment value of our whole community. He does that by factoring in the values of properties sold in the market place for the last twelve months. Due to the markets some years single family residential homes may be in demand, other years condos, country residential etc etc. In a nut shell values go up and down, and sometimes in some areas more or less than others.

This year our total municipal assessment base dropped 4% now to bring in the same amount of taxation dollars as last year the mill rate had to increase 4%.

So assuming that your property dropped in value the average 4% with an increased mill rate of 4% you would pay the same taxes as last year.

Some examples (Numbers may not totally equal due to rounding)

2013-$200,000 home x mill rate of 9.130963 that would equal $1826
2014-$192,000 home (4% drop) x mill rate of 9.4954 that would equal $1823
Virtually the same as 2013

Why did my taxes go up? I will use my own assessment as an example.

2013-$307,000 home x mill rate of 9.130963 that would equal $2803
2014-$303,000 home x mill rate of 9.4954 that would equal $2877 my taxes went up $74 why because my property only dropped in value by 1%.

Then I will give you an example of a person who's value went down more than the 4%.

2013-$155,000 home x mill rate of 9.130693 that would equal  $1415
2014-$146,000 home x mill rate of 9.4954 that would equal $1386 their taxes dropped by $29 because their value dropped more than the 4%


I hope I have explained this process, I understand it is complicated but in the simplest terms I can explain. The mill rate increased 4% if your property value decreased the average 4% your taxes stayed the same, if your value decreased less than 4% your taxes went up. If you value decreased by more than 4% your taxes went down.

Note: If you are really interested in the whole process of market place assessment you should read the following http://mgareview.alberta.ca/wp-content/upLoads/media/Market-Value-Assessment-and-Administration-Discussion-Paper.pdf

It is a little technical but it does fully explain the process, if you still have questions or concerns contact the Assessor Glen Snelgrove at 562-8833.
   

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Recognition, Entertainment, and putting the Pass on the map all in one week.

What a great week in the Crowsnest Pass:

Wednesday night the municipality in conjunction with the FCSS board hosted the Volunteer recognition night, there was a packed house the meal was catered by Chris's restaurant and entertainment was provided by a group of four young guys named "Hoja" who put on an excellent show that appealed to all age groups. Three people were recognized for their volunteer efforts by receiving the Order of the Crowsnest Pass presented by Mayor Painter. Long time volunteers Margaret Stolk and Margaret Ann Woodward shared the award and Kiana Miskulin received the Order of the Crowsnest Pass Outstanding Youth award.

Friday night the Polish Hall in Coleman hosted the CBC show "Of all places" more great entertainment, the comedian Johnny Harris and his two colleagues had the crowd laughing from the beginning to the end. What was really impressive was that they spent the week here not just visiting the Pass but actually learning about the Pass and some of it's people. Which was very evident by the way Mr Harris built so much of what he learnt into his material.
I will find out when the show will be televised great opportunity to put the Crowsnest Pass on the map.

Saturday we have the Turning Pointe Dance Studio putting on their annual Festival of the Stars two shows the first at 2pm and the second at 6pm. Come up to the MDM and catch some great entertainment provided by the very talented youth of our community.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Crowsnest Pass Budget down to the wire.

First reading of the mill rate bylaw was passed on April 1, second and third reading are scheduled for April 15.

Highlights:

Salaries and wages increased by 3% (collective agreement with CUPE effective Jan 1st) additional cost of $164,000.

Municipal Insurance costs increased by $31,000..

MSI operational funding dropped by $60,000

Property tax base dropped by 2.1%

General Municipal Taxation for 2014 will be $6,921,689 versus $6,681,111 for 2013

We will be spending $633,700 on capital, which will include the following:

Two pickups for operations $68,000
Two wheel loaders $375,000
Wastewater Inspection camera $11,700
Renovations Coleman Seniors Centre $19,000
Swimming Pool Conceptual Design $15,000
Albert Stella Memorial Arena Renovations Scope $35,000
Dressing Room Addition Roof Sports Complex $50,000
Server Upgrades and desk computer replacements $60,000

Reserves will be increased this year by $290,500 versus $240,666 in 2013

Franchise Fees will not increase this year.

Utilities will increase by 4.6%

Legal Fees in 2013 were budgeted at $15,000 actual cost was $156,431 budget for 2014 is $140,000.

Ski Hill manager eliminated savings of $61,000 a year also revenue for 2014 was decreased by $58,000, 2013 budget was $252,710 with actual revenue of $187,418.

Peace Officer reduced to one position effective May 1st, administration informed council that most communities only have one position for a population of 5500.

Ag Services grants decreased by $30,000.

Upgrades to municipal utilities:

$30,000 to the Electrical system
$24,000 on the water system
$58,000 on the wastewater system
$12,000 for garbage collection bins and Eco recycling

Economic Development will bring in revenue of $183,000 from various conditional grants.

Personnel requirements:

2013 budget allowed for 54 full time positions, 3319 hours of overtime, and 45,214 hours of casual employment.

2014 budget allows for 54.75 full time positions, 2858 hours of overtime, and 37,650 hours of casual employment.

Note: The town rounder position was counted in the casual hours last year, it is now a full time position, overtime hours have decreased by 461 hours and casual hours are reduced by 5499 hours after allowing for the town rounder hours from last year.

Debt:

The municipality will assume debt of $1,672,500 to construct a new Clarifier at the Frank wastewater plant subject to approval of $3,327,500 in grant funding from the province.  

The municipality will assume debt of $343,000 to upgrade the Sentinel Water Treatment plant, administration as proposed that this debt, will be financed by the owners of the properties in the Sentinel area under a Local Improvement program (Property owners will get to vote on this).

The payment on the $1,672,500 over 10 years would be $190,200 per year.

2014 we will pay $480,000 on debt payments, and roughly the same amount next year which will almost clear up all existing debt.   



Keep in mind the mill rate can be amended by a majority vote of council on either second or third reading. 

Well deserved Kudo's to the CAO, the administration staff we do have, and the hourly employee's who put a lot of effort into getting this budget in place. 
Personally I would have liked to have dug a lot deeper into this budget and the various areas that drive the numbers but unfortunately not having a finance officer in place since November and no Public Works Director for almost the same time frame made things very difficult.  
I do believe that the 2015 budget process will be much more efficient than what we just went through.