Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Need work "we" are hiring

By "we" I mean the good taxpayers of the Crowsnest Pass.

Just a matter of a few months ago our leaders hired a "New" Public Works Manager, I entered the G+P meeting last night just as the Mayor was introducing the "New" Fire Chief.

If you take a moment to click over to the Municipality site @  you will see "we" are also in the process of hiring a Building Inspector/Safety codes officer, Development Officer, Director of Planning, Engineering and Operations, and a Manager of Corporate Services.

Wow if I was on the negotiating committee for CUPE I would be rubbing my hands and thinking what a wonderful year 2012 is going to be, nothing better for bargaining than an employer that's flush with cash and willing to spend it.

Least we forget "we" still have the Director of Community Services to come. Does anybody believe that it will end there?

Interesting video from You tube  this story was pointed out to me by one of my reqular readers. Its from the USA but pretty much in line with what's going on in the Pass of course on a much smaller scale. Please take a couple of minutes and check it out.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Property Tax Penalties, Numbers separating the facts from the BS.

The bs on this property tax penalty issue gets deeper and deeper.

First of all I will start out by saying yes everybody should pay their taxes on time, their bank payments, credit card bills, utilities etc, in a perfect world they would. This world is far from perfect and that’s why all of the above get to charge you interest on the outstanding balance on your account.

I quote from Councilor Gallants blog. “Our Director of Finance and Systems confirmed that over half of the total is residential homes and businesses, while the remaining 46% or so is attributable to land developments and other parties.”

So I said 50% they say 46% not much of a difference. I do not know of anybody that’s saying almost all these back taxes are tied to one developer.

So do you think this penalty will have an impact on the 46%? No, they will just owe more. Out of the other 54% I expect most of the businesses will clean up their accounts so who will the 50% penalty impact? Residents who find themselves in the unfortunate position of not being able to pay their taxes.

Some people are still talking about the previous penalty being one of the lowest in the province at 10%. It was not 10%, it was 10% on June 30th and another 10% on January 1st which compounds to 21% annually.

Now we can be proud we will have one of the highest rates in the province.

So let’s talk about numbers under the old tax penalty a home owner that did not pay their taxes for three years on a home with a annual tax bill of $1800 would by the time their home went to a tax sale owe $8002 of which $5400 would be back taxes and $2602 in penalties

Now that same home owner will owe $13253 of which $5400 would be back taxes and $7853 would be penalties.

That’s a whopping $5251 difference in penalties!

I hear the line that people not paying their back taxes is putting pressure on the municipality to cut services due to shortfalls in revenue, what a crock. Last year the budget for taxes was $6,439,407 how short was the municipality on its tax revenue? Not one penny $6,765,427 came in $326,020 more than anticipated.

Fact over the last six years $34,407,633 in tax dollars was budgeted to come in, the actual dollars that were collected $34,806,978.

Then I hear the line people are investing their money elsewhere instead of paying their taxes (its getting deep now) according to the Globe and Mail today the top paying mutual fund in Canada over the last 12 months was the “Canadian Long term fixed Income Fund” that gained 12.69%.

Can you imagine all the conversations around the Pass the last year that went like this “Martha lets not pay our taxes this year and incur the 21% penalties, instead we will take that money and invest it in the Canadian Long term fixed Income Fund we could be making up to 12.69%.

Then I hear the line “the taxpayers that do pay on time are being penalized by these people that owe back taxes”. That is not the case, every tax dollar that was projected to come in over the last six year came in and more.

Second if you look in the municipalities audited financial statements they have collected $385,993 in penalties in that timeframe. The municipality every year budgets under revenue for an average of $55,000 to come in from penalties, so if these dollars are not there where do you think that revenue will come from?

Yes your right the rest of us will be penalized.

The present system works every year somewhere around 3-5 taxpayers are threatened with a tax sale out of 4500 tax notices that go out. Less than one tenth of one per cent.

Note: If you disagree with the penalties you can do the following:  

Phone Marion Vanoni at 403-562-8833 or email her at
Or phone the municipality and ask for a list of the council members phone numbers and give them a call.

The call you make today may well reflect on what tax increases you see this coming June, I have always said politicians love nothing more than silence.  

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The drive to seven is on. Paying for it.

After a year of task forces, strategic planning, creation of policy and procedures.
We learnt just a few weeks back that the municipality has been stream lined from the previous cumbersome structure of four departments each with a director reporting to the CAO for a total administration team of five people.
Down to a thrifty three departments with a team of up to six administrators reporting to a CAO for a total administration team of seven people.  

Today I see the next step to the drive to seven is in motion the Director of Planning-Engineering and Operations has been posted.

People keep asking me around town how are they going to pay for all of these positions plus the strategic plan.
I see a number of ways they are going to achieve this.

1. The strategic plan some of those issues are a one time cost so they need to find some easily accessible money. (Back taxes with the big jump in penalties they are anticipating great globs of money to flow in next year prior to those penalties kicking in)

2. Savings from the collective agreement the contract with CUPE is up on January 31st, it was not by accident that Councilor Mitchell was replaced with Councilor Saindon on the bargaining committee I suspect they will probably bring in a high priced lawyer or consultant to assist in this process. There is potentially large savings in the collective agreement the only problem is you have to get the folks sitting on the other side to agree to those changes.

3. The perpetual money generators (more often referred to as taxpayers) the message as already been sent with the increase in franchise fees, ($200,000 per year) and a tax increase last spring of 2% that most people anticipated to be zero.

4. User fees I anticipate that a lot of the fees that people use to pay for various municipal services will be increased.

5. Funding for external groups, many organizations receive funding from the municipality; Museum, Allied arts, Underground mine, Women's Centre etc etc I think you will see less funding for these types of groups.

6. New assessment most people don't realize that every year new assessment increases the tax base by 1-2% which should easily in today's economy cover any cost of living increases the municipality incurs.

It will be interesting six months from now to look back at this list and see how accurate my predictions were!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Does the right hand know what the left is doing?

Interesting story in the Crowsnest Promoter this week "Municipality appeals controversial development" available at

Now we have entered the dawn of the new era in the Crowsnest Pass where policies and procedures set the way that business is done.
This story makes one ask many questions the subdivision board makes a decision that is unanimously passed with two members of council sitting on that board.
The CAO had discussions with members of council and had their support did this include the two councilors that sat on this board, does that include the member of council that sits on the appeal board if not then to have a majority it means every other member of council supports him?
What position will the SDB and its members take at the appeal board?
Why was the applicant not told to rezone?
The proposed development is not compatible with the present downtown commercial businesses in the immediate area?
The municipality also has concerns that the proposed development is inappropriate from a planning standpoint?
Why were these issues not raised by administration or the two councilors at the SDB?

Its going to take quite a policy to ensure that this never happens again

Council Meeting of Nov 29, 2011 Crowsnest Pass

Occasionally where time as allowed I have been posting minutes of some of the council and G+P meeting.

Now Council as decided that they will post approved minutes by noon of the following day, after some members of council suggested that they had been approached by members of the public questioning why this was not being done.

Some people suggested to me that the only reason they were doing it was to out communicate myself with the general public. Wow does my blog really have that much power? I won't take any credit for that.

Back to the point of my post I am not going to do minutes as long as the municipality does they are coming out in a very timely fashion now and I know that the lady that does them can do a far better job than I do.

So if you are interested in the council minutes all you have to do is go to the municipal web site  you will find them underneath the council agenda column.

This of course will not stop me from commenting on these meeting as we all know minutes don't  provide you
with everything that happens at a meeting.


"Revised Municipal Reserve Policy and Procedure"

I found Councilors Londsbury comment about this policy very telling.  "First line of the policy states "The Municipality shall establish Capital and Operational Reserves" this is all well and good but will we have any money to place in reserves?"

Especially when you consider that in 2011 not a dollar was placed into such reserves.

Best of intentions mean nothing unless they are followed up, and as far as reserves the Mayors attempt at humour by saying I will give you a quarter if needs be to make sure something goes in there, does not cut it.