Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Fiscal difficulties of the Crowsnest Pass (Secondary Homes)

Over the last week I have received a number of emails, read letters to the editor, and comments on other blogs regarding the taxing of "Secondary Homes".
The fact that we are even having this discussion is one of the the symptoms of the fiscal difficulties that our beautiful municipality faces. Money is very tight here we don't have a large commercial tax base, 85% of our tax base is residential. Out of the last ten years we have ran a deficit most of those years (Available at the Municipal Web Site). Every year getting a budget becomes more and more difficult, some years we get creative to make the numbers work (getting the province to take over our policing costs, refinancing debt over longer time frames). But there are only so many rabbits in the hat and sooner or later you have to take a look at the tough choices, so we look at several options; increasing taxes, cutting spending, increasing debt, or finding other sources of revenue.
We whacked our taxpayers with a 12% increase this last year, with where the world is going, and one third of our residents living on pensions or fixed incomes I hope council does not do that again.
Cutting costs I am told that nobody here wants reduced services, facilities etc, I believe there is a vocal minority in our community that believes the taxpayer should do everything for everybody at whatever cost, I believe we have to spend other peoples money in a responsible manner.
Increasing debt, really should be a last resort how many dollars have different levels of government given to the banks to finance their fiscal irresponsibility. Ottawa pays every year 20-30 billions of dollars just in interest to service its debt, what could the country do with that kind of money. Puts those dollars in to infrastructure, programs etc not banks bottom lines.
Finding other sources of revenue, council directed our administration to look at a number of areas; secondary homes, vacant land, user fees, provincial grants, etc.
The secondary homes argument was spear headed by Canmore, the debate can be looked at from both sides, yes "weekenders" pay full taxes and only use our services for a portion of the year, but because the Crowsnest Pass is not their primary residence they don't get counted in the census numbers, so we do not receive provincial/federal grants for those people which equates to roughly $1200 per year per person. If we have a thousand weekenders that translates to $1,200,000 per year.
I don't believe that the Crowsnest Pass should be looking at a tax on secondary homes, we are not Canmore we do not have big developments moving forward creating new tax base (outside of Ironstone)
The last thing we need to do in these difficult economic times is impose a tax that makes the Crowsnest Pass less attractive.
What we do need to do is get our finances in order, I would like us to bring in a corporate review that looks at our municipality and tells us, where we could be more efficient, the best places to spend our dollars, and where we are duplicating services.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Spending Tax Dollars in the Crowsnest Pass

On October 21st council had a discussion regarding the policy of sending members of council to out of province conventions. (Specifically the FCM convention) At a previous meeting a request was made by council to bring back the costs of attending conventions.

The following includes; costs of rooms, meals, mileage, registration etc basically everything except the daily reimbursement that councilors receive for attending conventions. ($160 per day per council member)

2008---$19269 (Not a complete total yet because there is one more convention in November)

If we continue our present practice these costs will climb because we are now a member of the AAMDC which we were not involved with during the years 2005-2007.

The numbers above total $87,812 the question that needs to be asked here does the taxpayer receive value for this expenditure?

There is no question that at the conventions there are indeed the opportunities to meet with "the right" people and discuss issues important to the Crowsnest Pass.

There is no question that at these conventions there are indeed the opportunities to attend informative sessions that further educate councilors.

The question should always be when you are spending other people's money is there a cheaper way to do it? Does all of council need to go? can two or three members of council meet "the right" people? can two or three members of council attend training sessions and report back to the rest of council?

The way its been done in the past is history now, moving forward are there better ways to do this? These are questions that need to be addressed?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Affordable Housing in the Crowsnest Pass

The affordable housing committee will be getting back together on October 30 to discuss finalizing the Needs assessment and where do we go from here.
Take a moment and have a look at what Grande Prairie as achieved.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Crowsnest Pass Council Meeting October 21

Upcoming Highlights

First the Annual Organizational Meeting

Finance is looking for strategic direction heading into Budget

Public Works Cleanup took nine days longer than anticipated

Crowsnest Centre Boiler 4-5 weeks to order 1 week to put in

Direction from council on the future of the centre

Policy for out of province conventions

Repeal of the Bylaw 766 Crowsnest Centre Plebiscite

And many other procedural issues

Interest in politics and the way the Crowsnest Pass is ran check the meeting out starts at 7pm

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Crowsnest Pass, Budget process!

Well Tuesday night (Oct 14th) we were in to the budget process, administration came looking for direction from council. So that all the numbers can be put together and prepared for a mid November presentation to council.
We looked at many different issues that are going to effect what we as the taxpayers will be asked to pay for in the coming year.
Several area's for income generation, ie taxation of secondary homes, and vacant land.
Grants, for weed control, MSI operational funding, Capital projects.
Offsite Levies we have commissioned a study by Stantec to review our off site levies, right now what we charge is probably outdated by ten years.
Develop able lands, council will look at what's available in 2009.
We discussed reviewing the future needs of our electrical system and preparing our reserves to accommodate those requirements.
Water, sewer, garbage and recycling, are these being fully supported by utility bills or are they being paid for out of general revenue? we will be provided with that information.
Franchise and user fees we will be reviewing, should the user be paying more of the cost of a service or should that burden fall on all taxpayers?
Reserves, should we being looking at building reserves? our reserves have dropped to very minimal levels, due to cancelling the Public Works shop we may have a total of $6-700,000 in reserves by year end.
Professional services, should we be tendering them out at set time frames?
Insurance Premiums, should we be insuring everything at replacement value? big cost for the municipality this year around $260,000.
Not for profit funding, every year we have many worthy groups that we give funding to, should we be reevaluating that process?
Economic Development what role should the municipality play? presently we give $20,000 a year to the Economic Development Board plus $15,000 to the marketing Consortium should that continue? should those funds be used differently?
Some other issues we have to look at regarding determining where we are at as a municipality and where we are going, Corporate review, Municipal Development Plan, Municipal Census, Community Enhancement Fund, etc, etc.

Second issue on the agenda was the Crowsnest Centre, at our previous council meeting we had requested information from both our administration and the Crowsnest Centre board so we could start moving forward on this issue, administration presented the information they had available. One councilor indicated that he will be making motions at the Oct 21st council meeting regarding the centre.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Federal Election Predication from the Crowsnest Pass

At Dissolution

Conservatives-- 127
Liberal---------- 95
Bloc------------- 48
Green------------ 1

My picks

Ontario C-53 L-36 NDP 16 Green 1
Quebec Bloc-52 L-11 C-11 NDP-1
Nova Scotia L-7 C-2 NDP-2
New Brunswick L-7 C-2 NDP-1
Manitoba NDP-6 C-6 L-2
BC C-17 NDP-10 L-8 Green-1
PEI C-2 L-2
Saskatchewan C-10 NDP-2 L-2
Alberta C-26 L-1 NDP-1
Newfoundland L-6 C-1
Yukon L-1
Nunavut C-1



Friday, October 10, 2008

Recession (Crowsnest Pass View)

Have a read of this article I posted on June 3, not that long ago. I had people laugh at me then. We are seeing todate the results of a world living on credit, running budgets that are sustained by unrealistic growth levels. It does not matter who you are how much money you make or have at the end of the day you have to live within your means. And yes that includes all levels of government also.