Monday, February 28, 2011

What can be done to keep Taxes at 0%?

The short answer is lots, if council so choose.

First of all the budget is never really final until the mill rate is set which takes three reading.

So any member of council can make an amendment at that time to the budget.

What can the public do to encourage the councilors? Contact them call the municipal office at 403 562 8833. They will provide you with the councilors contact information.

You can also voice your opinion on several councilors blogs:

Emile Saindon @ or Brian Gallant @ also this is a small community when you see your members of council around town don't be afraid to voice your opinion.

Speaking from experience small town politicians love nothing better than silence, it gives them a sense that the public is supporting their actions (right or wrong)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Well here comes the first real tough choice! Maintaining a 0% tax increase.

Previously I have stated that it was too soon to get caught up in the excitment of a 0% tax increase.

But maybe not! has I have also stated previously Council could still maintain a 0%, by choping the budget by the equivalent amount of any increase in the ASFF.

Well now available on the municipal affairs web site is the cost of the ASFF, and once again the province is increasing the burden on the residential tax payer.

Total education requisition for 2011 $2,542,134.47 versus $2,366,565.40 last year. An increase of $175,569.07.

Three options at $65,000 equals 1% tax increase

a) Increase taxes by 2.7%
b) Decrease the budget by $175,569.07
c) Some combination of a+b.

Yes the 3.2% for last year, with putting $450,000 into reserves and $250,000 into equipment does not look so bad if they go with option A.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Economic Task Force

Noticed the Herald as a poll this week to guage the public's feeling on the Economic Task Force.
I am real curious to see the response. I will reserve my comments I know what I am hearing around town, but we will wait for the poll results.

Interesting to read the letter to the editior in Fridays paper from the lady who thought she was voting for smaller government. Who also questions how the five new jobs are going to be paid for.

Somebody asked me the obvious question on the weeked so obvious I never thought of it. Does council intend to not put any money into reserves over the next three years, and do they plan to finance all new equipment. Because how else are they going to pay for all these new jobs next year, and the year after. (The $400,000 bill that just won't stop taking)

I told the person to ask his councilor that question, maybe it will be with the additional revenues they are planning to bring in. For example last year the Elks Hall was projected to bring in $4,000 in rental income this year $29,000.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Little confused about property Taxes??

From todays Pass Promoter

"For 2011, a total of $6.841 million is required in taxes. The property tax levy for 2010 was $6.548 million"

Strange taxes did not go up??????

So where does the additional $293,000 come from?

New assessment for those kind of dollars? maybe.

There would have to be new development of $30,000,000 in 2010, or higher assessment based on increased real estate market values.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Well its news

Check out

Talks broke down this afternoon check out the site above. Tomorrows meeting is cancelled.

Council Meeting of Feb 15, 2011

Council Meeting of Feb 15,2011

Adoption of Agenda:

Councilor Gallant added under other business Sub division Appeal Board Training
Councilor Londsbury added under other business G+P Meeting of Feb 22
Mayor Decoux added under other business Policy Committee meeting Date
Motion to accept the amended Agenda was passed unanimously

Adoption of previous minutes.

1. Council meeting of February 1,2011 Councilor Saindon pointed out that the minutes did not reflect that he voted against the budget. Motion to accept the minutes with that change accepted unanimously.

2. Special Council meeting of January 25,2011 Motion to accept the minutes as presented passed unanimously.

Delegations: None

Administrative and Agency Reports: None

Business arising from the Minutes:

1. Bylaw 818,2011-Utility Rate Bylaw-This is the Bylaw that will increase Water and Sewer rates by 10%.

Committee Reports:

1. G+P minutes of Feb 8,2011 Motion to accept passed unanimously


1. Bylaw 817,2011-Distribution Tariff Bylaw- 1st reading passed unanimously, 2nd reading passed unanimously, consideration for third reading passed unanimously, and 3rd reading passed unanimously.

2. Bylaw 818,2011-Utility Rate Bylaw- 1st reading passed unanimously, 2nd reading passed unanimously, consideration for third reading passed unanimously, and 3rd reading passed unanimously.

Notices of Motion:

Councilor Saje-Provided a Notice of Motion on Alternative Public Transportation. He stated that this would be above and beyond the present Town Rounder.

Other Business:

1. Quarterly and Annual Compliance Report-Motion to accept passed unanimously

2. Request to amend Current Funding agreement for Crowsnest Walking Trail Project. Timing to be extended from March 31st to October 31st. Motion to accept passed unanimously.

3. Request for Additional Funds towards Crowsnest Community Trails Project, the Department will be looking for an additional $133,000 in funding for the trails to come from grants and sponsorship. Motion to accept passed unanimously

4. Greenmore Development Agreement extension, request to extend to March 2012, (this is the new food bank building) Motion to accept passed unanimously.

5. Mayor Task Force on the economy, see post below.

6. Pass Powderkeg Dummy Downhill, Council was requested to place a dummy in the upcoming event at the ski hill.

7. Sub division appeal board training, Councilor Gallant asked for council permission to attend a training session on March 3, Motion to accept passed unanimously

8. G+P meeting of Feb 22, council felt that there was insufficient work load form the meeting so it was cancelled.

9. Policy Committee Meeting dates, Mayor Decoux informed that the committee as not met yet, so he suggested that it meet monthly on the third Wednesday of the month at 1pm. Motion to accept passed unanimously.

Council Member reports

Councilor Saje gave an update about how well the ski hill is doing.
Some comments from the bylaw officer regarding angle parking on main street Blairmore.

Public Input: None

In Camera: None

Adjournment: Motion to adjourn passed unanimously.

"Economic Task Force"

Tuesday Feb 15, Mayor Decoux announced the composition of his task force. He stated that they will report back by the last week of May, 2011. That they will meet a minimum of once a month either in person or by conference call.

First impression is a very impressive list, there obviously will be great expectations attached to this group and what they come back with.

Economic Task Force

Chairman Dr Frank Oliva: Former Dean at the University of Calgary

Task Force Members:

Doug Thornton: Former Councilor and Chair of the Economic Development Committee for the Town of Pincher Creek.

Lynnette Jessop: Serves on numerous boards and committees in the Crowsnest Pass

John E Squarek: President, CEO and director of several companies, currently a Director of the Alberta Clean Air Strategic Alliance

Ryan Gill: CEO/Partner of Suitcase Interactive a National Digital Marketing Agency.

Bruce Graham: President and CEO of Calgary Economic Development, currently spearheading the development and programming for the Global Business Centre for Southern Alberta.

Robert Tarleck: Former Mayor of Lethhbridge.

Janet Hyde: Consultant with Abiocon Stratergies Inc, worked previously in the Crowsnest Pass to develop an action plan for tourism.

Shane Stewart: Currently a developer in the Crowsnest Pass.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Municipal Taxation and the impact of ASFF and Seniors Funding.

One of my readers send the following question to me via email. "Dean I am sitting here trying to read last year's mill rate bylaw, I can't figure it out. Can you explain to me what the Municipality actually collects of the taxpayers and where it goes. Also if I am understanding the news right, the municipality is stating that the budget did not go up this year, so does that mean my taxes will not rise?"


If you grab last years Mill rate Bylaw #794 (available on the municipal site).

You will see under the third whereas it states that $6,432,821 is to be raised by general municipal taxation.

Then the next whereas refers to the Alberta School Foundation Fund which was $2,366,925.

Under that you will see Seniors Foundation which was $184,542.

So what the municipality does then is collects on your tax bills the total of the three sums above
It then keeps the $6,432,821 for itself and sends the ASFF portion $2,366,925 to the province and the $184,542 to the York Creek Lodge.

Now will taxes not rise because the municipality did not increase its budget? that's not so simple.

If you take the amount above $6,432,821 and go look back at the Mill rate Bylaw for 2009 (#777) you will see that the municipality collected $6,360,015 by general municipal taxation so the increase between the two years was $72,806 which only worked out to a 1.1% increase but your taxes went up 3.2% why?

Well if you look at the ASFF portion for 2010 was $2,366,925 in 2009 it was $2,234,452 so that went up by $132,473 a jump of 5.9%.

Then you look at the Seniors foundation it when from $167,766 in 2009 to $184,542 in 2010 a jump of $16,776 or 10%.

So if you take the total dollars that those three numbers increased from 2009 to 2010, it was $222,055 of which less than one third $72,806 was dictated by the municipality.

So looking a head the only way to guarantee that taxes will not go up is if all three parties to the mill rate do not raise their dollar amounts, what's the chance of that? slim to none.

The municipality as said they will hold their portion to zero, the other two parties the seniors foundation always raises their amount by 10% ($18,454) which they are allowed to do based on the MGA, the province is indicating that it's going to be a tough provincial budget on Feb 24th. Which usually means they down load costs on the municipalities ie. ASFF.

Despite all of that there still is a way for taxes to be kept at zero.

For example if the Seniors take there 10% $18,454 and the ASFF increases $180,000 for a total of almost $200,000 all the municipality as to do is slash three of those new positions which would drop their dollars by $200,000 (or any other means they see fit) then there truly would be no tax increase.

I hope this answered the question.

Time will tell

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Interesting story regarding Freebies for politicians

Well the honeymoon period for Mayor Nenshi appears to be taking a break in Calgary.
Today's Calgary Sun goes after him because he took a flight to Toronto ($721.51) paid for by a company called Kasian Architecture, who just happens to do business with the city of Calgary.
Maybe just an error in judgement, due to lack of experience.

Or maybe his administration will provide the excuse we received here when our Mayor and Director of Public Works were alleged to have attended a Flames game as the guest of a firm that does tons of work for our municipality.
"It was an opportunity to take advantage of hours of "free" time of people that are very expert in the infrastructure issues facing the Crowsnest Pass"

G+P meeting Feb 8, 2011

G + P Meeting February 8, 2011

Councilor Londsbury was absent

Adoption of Agenda:
Councilor Gallant added a #2 under Topics of Discussion, Affordable Housing committee
Motion to accept agenda was passed Unanimously.

1. Crowsnest Pass Conservation Society:
President Judy Cooke gave a basic review of what the society does, and informed council that there will be a public Forum at the Lions Hall on Feb 24th.

2. Bear Smart Committee
Elizabeth Anderson gave an update on their program, drew council’s attention to Bylaw 670 Garbage Bylaw, and specifically article 7.4 which states “Occupants of residential dwelling units shall ensure refuse is stored in an approved storage location at all times other than when the waste is being transferred to an Animal Proof Waste Cointainer”
She stated that she hopes the municipality provides an education process on this issue, but feels that at some point down the road the municipality may have to use its enforcement powers.

Topics for Discussion:
1. Amended Bylaw 817,2011- the Electrical Distribution Bylaw, which the municipality as very little say in, because the distribution rates are set by the suppliers which then flow through to the consumer. The present version of this Bylaw is available on the Municipal Website under Electricity. Motion was made to recommend this to council which passed unanimously.

2. Update on Affordable Housing Committee, Councilor Gallant asked administration when this information would be coming back to council, he was informed that a presentation is anticipated for March 8, 2011

At this point a Motion was made to go in camera for a land issue which passed unanimously

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Teck's financial results for 2010 (coal Mines only)

COALTeck Coal (100%)

Operating results at the 100% level are summarized in the following table:

Three months ended December 31--------Year ended December 31
-------------------------- 2010----2009-----2010-----2009
Production (000's tonnes)-6,028-- 5,354---- 23,109--- 18,930

Sales (000's tonnes)------ 5,950---5,368---- 23,167----19,767

Average sale price

US$/tonne--------------- $ 200----$ 139----- $ 181----- $ 157
C$/tonne-----------------$ 204---- $ 151---- $ 188----- $ 177

Operating expenses (C$/tonne)

Cost of product sold------ $ 54------ $ 52------ $ 59------ $ 55
Transportation-----------$ 35------ $ 30------ $ 32------ $ 32
Depreciation/amortization $ 23------ $ 28------ $ 24------$ 26

Operating profit summary ($ millions)

Before depreciation/amortization $ 679--- $ 372--- $ 2,248--- $ 1,795
Depreciation and amortization---- (135)--- (153)---- (558)---- (517)

After depreciation/amortization-- $ 544--- $ 219--- $ 1,690--- $ 1,278

The rest of the company did the following:

We recorded record annual and record quarterly revenues of $9.3 billion and $2.8 billion, respectively. Operating profit for the year was a record $3.6 billion and cash flow from operating activities was $2.7 billion.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

2011 versus 2010 tax increase

Just an another attempt to keep my readers fully informed.
We have to make sure that we do not get caught up as one of my commenter's stated in "smoke and mirrors".
So lets continue to compare apples to apples.

2010 achieved a 3.2% tax increase (which brought in an additional $200,000), despite $450,000 into reserves, and $250,000 into new equipment.
2011 achieved a 0% tax increase with no money placed into reserves, for new equipment no dollars spend, equipment will be paid for by borrowing, debt load increased bt $550,000.

Another important factor to remember before we all finish thrashing around in the glory of the 0% tax increase.

The end result may well not be the 0% the province as not set the education portion for the municipalities yet,
That increased by $150,000 last year about 75% of that tax increase, provincial budget is supposed to be announced on Feb 24th.

In addition the assessment process is usually not completed at this point so that usually ends up in a tweaking of the budget.

Time will tell.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Where do numbers come from?

The municipalities financial statements.
We can debate all night long about weather new positions are just old positions being reincarnated, or a full time position is not really new because it was half time before. Or we will get a grant for a position for the next three years so it does not really count or we can take FCSS money and spend it on additional staff instead of going to programs. So it really does not count either.
But at the end of the day the numbers never lie so when I get them I will print them and then we will all get to read them together.

All of these numbers appear on the municipalities web site under the financial statements.

2000 Total cost of Salaries/Wages/Benefits $2,693,585

2005 Total cost of Salaries/Wages/Benefits $3,593,322

2009 Total cost of Salaries/Wages/Benefits $4,572,803

2010 Total cost of Salaries/Wages/Benefits ??????????

2011 Total cost of Salaries/Wages/Benefits ??????????

The number grew from 2000 to 2009 at an average of 7% a year is that sustainable?, how much will 2010's number grow by? What will be the projection for 2011 will the public see that?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Looking for updates on the Teck/Elkview Labour Dispute

Check out the following sites:

Also of interest the following site which is the port I told by a number of people that one of the ship loaders was down, which was true its now up and running as of Jan 24, 2011.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

2011 Budget passed 0%? (Really)

First of all I would say congratulations to the new council on passing a budget with a 0% increase.

Some comments raised with me today around town regarding this budget.

Why didn't the previous council pass a budget with a 0% increase?

Good question first of all we could have. Last year we raised taxes 3.2%, remember each 1% increase in taxes equals roughly $65,000. So 3.2% equalled $200,000.

How can I make the statement that we could have done 0%.

Well think about this, in 2010 council placed $450,000 back into reserves, council also took $250,000 and purchased equipment. That a total of $700,000 minus the $200,000 (tax increase) that would have left $500,000 divided by $65,000 that comes out to 7.7% yes if the last council had took the same position as this council, taxes could have been "cut" by 7.7%.

Why did they not do that especially in an election year?

I can only speak for myself.

After years of depleting the municipal reserves and arguing that we needed to get our financies in order. I felt it was time and the responsible thing to do to start rebuilding those reserves. In fact on a number of occasions I heard present councilors stress the need for building up the reserves.

Two, previous council had a policy of spending $250,000 each year to replace the aging equipment fleet, not by incurring debt but by actually putting aside dollars each year.

Number of dollars allocated in 2011 to reserves? Zero

Number of dollars allocated to purchase equipment $550,000 all of it in debt.

How many new employees will be hired because of this new budget?

One new Foreman position for public works
One new position for HR
One new position for Community Services, one employee was previously looking after programming and FCSS, there will now be a full time position for each job (1 becomes 2)
One half time position for finance.
One full time position for Agricultural Services this used to be a part time position

Did the Mayor state that over time, positions will be eliminated by attrition, retirement and reassignment of job duties?

Yes he did, do you really think that CUPE is going to co-operate with management to eliminate positions. Do you really believe that positions will not be refilled? we will find out in March.

Another councilor as stated on his blog that at least we did not raise taxes in our first year 11.2% like the previous council.

Well first of all let me say I never voted for that, so I will not take on that responsibility.

Second the last council left the municipality in a much better financial position our last year we left a budget with a surplus of $450,000 to be placed back into reserves. In 2007 the new council was left with a deficit to deal with.

Also this council did not have the anchor around its neck of having to put $100,000 plus into the Crowsnest Centre! another 2%.

The comment was made last night that taxes should have gone up 2-3%, I ask why with no money in reserves and financing new equipment quite the opposite taxes should have gone down.

But the budget is done now which is good, and we will see where things go. The comment was made during the budget process that between council and administration enough savings could be found in the next six months to pay for the back hoe. So I look forward to seeing a huge surplus in 2011

Crowsnest Pass Council Meeting Feb 1, 2011

Crowsnest Pass Council Meeting Feb 1, 2011

Adoption of Agenda:

Councilor Mitchell added item #7 under other business Emergency Manual
Mayor Decoux removed Item #4 under other business AUMA Mayors Caucus
Motion to accept amended agenda passed unanimously

Adoption of previous Minutes

Few minor spelling errors motion to accept minutes as corrected passed unanimously


Mark Murphy from Emergency Management Services for Southern Alberta was scheduled to present an update on the CNP emergency plan he was unable to attend so CAO Tully Clifford presented his comments instead on our municipal emergency plan.
He felt that the present plan is very good, and the municipality is very well prepared. Also stated that the plan will be formatted and placed on the municipal web site.

Admin and Agency Reports: None

Business Arising from the Minutes:

Budget 2011.

Concerns and comments raised by council:

Hiring of more staff
Not raising taxes a good thing
Money needs to go into reserves but will be dealt with later in the year
Some felt the need for Track Hoe
One councilor felt that the $30,000 removed from advertising should be placed back in.
Need more staff in the office
Taxes should go up 2-3%
Could we not just get by with the Foreman and the HR person
Track if purchased should have all the necessary equipment to go with it.
External organizations should have clear terms of reference, and mandates
It is a myth that the municipal office has too many employees
Retirement, attrition and reassignment of work duties will reduce the workforce down the road.
Concern about holding tax increases to low amounts and then hitting the taxpayers harder in future years.

Motion to accept the budget as presented passed by a vote of 5-1 Councilor Saje absent and Councilor Saindon opposed.


Alberta Order of Excellence, council members to provide names to CAO

Committee Reports

1. G+P minutes January 25 motion to accept passed unanimously
2. Municipal Heritage Board Minutes of April 28, 2010 motion to accept passed unanimously
3. Police Advisory Board Minutes of November 29 motion to accept passed unanimously

Bylaws: None

Notices of Motion: None

Other Business:

1. Proposed Policy Development Procedures and Templates Motion to accept passed unanimously; Mayor Decoux also raised the issue of the policy committee and expanding its membership by adding two councilors. Motion to accept and add councilors Mitchell and Gallant passed unanimously

2. Appointments to the SDA, Motion to accept the appointments of Bill MacIntyre and Loretta Thompson to the SDA passed unanimously

3. Approval for signage on Municipal property besides the Blairmore Liquor store. Motion to deny passed unanimously.

4. AUMA mayors caucus removed by Mayor Decoux

5. Senior Housing Board appointment, Motion to accept Sasha Jagerbaird to the Seniors Board passed unanimously

6. Tipping Fee Request, Request by a non-profit group to remove an older home and have the municipality waive the tipping fees. Councilor Saindon motioned for the municipality to take the concrete and brick to the municipal pit in Passburg and the rest of the material to go to the land fill with the municipality covering the first $2000 of tipping fees. Motion passed 5-1 Councilor Gallant opposed.

7. Emergency Manuals, added to the agenda by Councilor Mitchell and withdrew by Councilor Mitchell

Council Member reports: Councilor Saindon attended the Chinook Library board meeting; Mayor Decoux attended the Devon cheque presentation. Councilor Gail stated that he intended to attend the cheque presentation but did not.

Public Input: None

In Camera: None

Motion to adjourn: Passed unanimously.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Budget so what happens tonight? Crowsnest Pass

Well last meeting council sent administration away, to review the 2011 budget package.
I "assumed" (bad word) that tonight they would come back with a slightly fine tuned package that allows the politicians to look better.

If you go to the right of my blog and click on the Municipal Web site, you can read for yourself under council packages what is being brought back by administration tonight.

It's the same proposal as last time, so the politicians have clearly had the tough choices thrown back into their lap by administration.

Many Options available:

They can eat what they are being spoon fed.

They can go with a recommended 0% tax increase, or 1 or 2%.

They can choice to create 5 more positions, using the old government theory that we have to get bigger before we get smaller.

They can choice to not put any dollars into reserves.

They can choice to finance two new pieces of equipment, or one or none.

Or they can choice to do something different.

I hear of nothing for affordable housing, marketing the community, economic development, prelimary studies for new facilities etc etc.

Keep in mind that if any of these things are going to be done there will have to be dollars provided at some point. By this time next year when their second budget is finalized their term will be almost half over.

I agree with Councilor Saje no new positions should be hired until the organizational review takes place. We all know once the new positions are in place no review is going to say that a mistake was made. Unfortunatly Councilor Saje will not be there tonight.

Anyway it will be interesting to see what comes out of tonight.