Friday, April 26, 2013

Looking for a career in the Crowsnest Pass

The jobs just keep coming, the municipality is now looking for a Community peace Officer amongst many other available positions. I hope this means one of our present officers is leaving,  not that the municipality is increasing to three peace officers.
Any way there sure are a  lot of opportunities with the municipality check it out at the following address:

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Crowsnest Pass Mill rate Bylaw

April 22 there was a special meeting of council, to pass the mill rate bylaw for 2013.
First reading was completed last week at the regular meeting of council on April 16, by a vote of 4-3 (Councilors Gallant, Saje and Saindon opposed)
Yesterday Second reading was moved by Councilor Londsbury without any debate the vote was called and the same result has April 16 occurred.
Third reading was moved by Councilor Gail again without any debate the vote was called and again it was passed by the 4-3 vote.

What does this mean? Mill rate for residential is going up 3.8% non-residential 4.9%.
Will you see a tax increase? maybe, maybe not depending on your assessed value if you value dropped more than 3.8% your tax will actually go down, if it dropped less than 3.8% you will see an increase.
You will find out next week the bills will be in the mail prior to April 30, that will provide the legally required sixty days to the due date June 30.

Reminder: Keep in mind the real due date is June 28th, the 30th is a Sunday. If you miss going into the office on Friday the 28th, you will not be able to go into the office until July 2 when you will find that your bill will have increased by an additional 20%    

Monday, April 22, 2013

Rum Runner Days 2013

Today at the special meeting of council, Myron Thompson informed council that there had been a resurgence of interest in putting on the Rum Runner Days weekend July 18-20, also announcing that Penny Warris will filling the position of Rum Runner Days Co-ordinator.  .

Policy or Politics

This article by feature writer John Pundyk available in this week's  Pass Herald available at  I think it says it all.

There has been lots of healthy discussion these days about local politics, especially now, as our community is being scrutinized because of a petition and by ministerial order.
There are significant differences between policy and politics, and knowing these differences usually leads to good politics and good policy – but this only happens in a perfect world. In the real world, policy and politics are in constant conflict.
So what are the differences?
To put it simply, policy is about ideas. Politics is about interests. Interests can be defined as competing ideas. Hence, politics is about how to put particular ideas into action. In a democratic society like ours, some good ideas and policies often clash with other good ideas dear to other people in our political space. Our community is our political space.
Because of the coal mines, past and present, our community is very diverse. Unlike many other small Alberta towns which tend to be quite homogenous in their makeup, we have people who came here to work in the mines from every corner of the world. This may be a little exaggerated, but not much. This is also what makes our community a very interesting place to live.
Crowsnest Pass is a community which has always been passionate about politics. Those who study our local history know this to be true. Our different interests are dear to us, whether it is the ski hill, the swimming pool, hockey arena, fire department, old hospital, new hospital, our seniors, our young people, you name it – we are passionate about it.
This passion for local politics can be presented to the outside world as something negative. Our propensity to resort to petitions to defend our interests can be interpreted as disruptive behavior.
I would argue that while our behaviour can be seen as disruptive, it can also be understood in a positive manner. While we may not be easy to govern, we are a people who care deeply about our community and we are always ready to defend our particular interests.
We may not always agree with one another, but we always come together in times of need. One of the reasons I love this community is because of its spirit. Since coming to Canada as a teenager from Poland in 1975, I have lived and worked in every part of our province and I can genuinely say there is no place like the Crowsnest Pass when it comes to generosity and friendliness.
This does not make us saints, we do have our moments, but we are good people.
So, while we may be good people, governing us has never been easy and it requires special skill. Not everyone has this skill, and you don’t have to have a lot of schooling to know this.
Some people, like Ralph Klein for example, are born to be politicians and know, almost instinctively, what to do. Others hone this skill through trial and error. A good majority of us, however, will simply never make good politicians. Local municipal politics is usually an entry point into our political system and it is here where many an aspiring politician has discovered that this sort of thing is really not for them.
Political history shows good policy makers seldom make good politicians. Think about the recent leaders of the federal Liberal party. Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff are both very accomplished university professors with many excellent policy ideas, but neither could connect, politically, with the Canadian public.
Much the same is happening in our community today. We have some very good people on our council, but our community has never been in a bigger political mess than it is today. We should not doubt their good intentions to make our community better, but the entire experience has lacked political skill from day one.
Today we find ourselves under municipal inspection because we have experienced too much policy work which was not accompanied with the requisite political skills.
Writing policy is never enough. People must be sold on the merits of the policy and this is done through politics and politics is all about communication. In a small community like ours, communication is not about announcements or newsletters. Rather, communication is a dialogue and argument on the merits of a particular policy initiative. People need to be brought on board, and the more contentious the policy proposal, the more essential it is that people be brought on board before changes are made.
Some, of course, will argue if this is the case then change will never come. Well, in a democratic society, politics is the cost of doing business. Even the best policy is sometimes ditched because it is not politically expedient and the political cost outweighs the benefits of good policy. Given no emergency, gradual change is always preferable to an abrupt and unnecessary upheaval.
So while our little community may seem dysfunctional, it really is not. I just see a lot of people standing up for what makes this community great and what makes this community vibrant. The unique spirit and work ethic of the Pass has taken us through many hardships and I believe we will get through this turmoil, and emerge even stronger than before.

Friday, April 19, 2013


Sorry I have now been contacted by several people whose comments I have not posted in the last few days. I had a problem with my blog account which I believe is now fixed. If you could leave your comments again I would be glad to post them.

Making the numbers work. Option 1, 2 or 3

The following options were presented by administration to council, Option 2 was approved by a vote of 4-3 (Saindon, Gallant and Saje) opposed. First reading was passed Tuesday night and second and third reading will be done Monday 2pm April 22 Special Council Meeting

Option 1: Administration has reviewed the 2013 Operating Budget and provided budgetary reductions to achieve an additional 4% reduction or $ 295,000 decrease in the following areas:
• $ 5,000 reduction to Senior’s Tax Rebate- with assessments similar to 2008 there would be fewer owners qualifying.
• $ 100,0000 reduction to York Creek Capital Project Reserve
• $ 15,000 reduction to Rum Runner Days
• $ 10,000 reduction in Cemetery Expansion
• $ 52,000 reduction in Float and Banners
• $ 57,500 reduction for Albert Stella Memorial Arena
• $ 1,000 for the Centennial Building-Painting exterior
• $ 8,000 reduction for the Passberg Pit
• $ 45,000 reduction for Gravel and Gravel Haul
• $ 25,000 reduction in Sewer Cameraing
• $ 38,250 addition for the Town Rounder
• $ 14,750 reduction in Travel and General Supplies

Option 2: Provides for a tax increase for negative growth of $ 102,000.00 (residential 3.8% and non-residential 4.9%) combined with a budget decrease of $ 193,000. The $ 193,000 proposed decrease could come from the following areas:
• $ 5,000 reduction to Senior’s Tax Rebate- with assessments similar to 2008 there would be fewer owners qualifying.
• $ 100,0000 reduction to York Creek Capital Project Reserve
• $ 10,000 reduction in Cemetery Expansion
• $ 52,000 reduction in Float and Banners
• $ 1,000 for the Centennial Building-Painting exterior
• $ 23,500 reduction for Gravel and Gravel Haul
• $ 25,000 reduction in Sewer Cameraing
• $ 38,250 addition for the Town Rounder
• $ 14,750 reduction in Travel and General Supplies

Option 3: Provides for a $ 193,000 budget reduction (in the areas noted in option 2) and a transfer from MRSR in the amount of $102,000.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Up date on Russell Farmer Interviews with Municipal employees

I hear today that representatives from Russell farmer met with employees from the municipality.
Unfortunately the employees were given very little notice and also met in groups.
That can be a very intimidating setting, depending on the make up of the groups but for any employee that would like a one on one with Russell Farmer they can contact them at the following number and email address, plus they will meet you somewhere other than municipal property

After April the 18th they will not be conducting more one on one interviews in the Pass but they are more than willing to talk to anybody that wishes to provide input just contact them at the phone number or email below leave a message and they will get back to you.

Cell: 403-966-7259

Quebec Manufacturer looks else where

Last night at the Council meeting the CAO announced that the Quebec Manufacturer will not be coming to the Crowsnest Pass. The company Polyform  it appears from the comments made last night is in serious negotiations with a couple of communities in the Lethbridge area.
He also stated that there were some issues with the height of the roof in the building they were looking at in the Pass plus an alternative site in the Frank Industrial park was not to their liking.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Crowsnest Pass The real numbers!

Last week I wrote about the bungled discovery of a 5.23% assessment base drop six momths into the budget process.

Today we have a special meeting of council to see administrations recommendations to solve the $295,000 shortfall. Administration brings backs three options:

Option 1 Spending cuts of $295,000 including eliminating $100,000 for the York Creek Lodge Reserve, $57,000 by shutting the Albert Stella Arena, $52,000 eliminating banners and the rest in smaller cuts.

Option 2 Spending cuts of $193,000 and $102,000 raised from additional mill rate increases beyond the 2.5% placed in the original tri annual budget

Option 3 Spending cuts of $193,000 and $102,000 coming out of reserves.

After the presentation of these options and the explanation behind each, Council asked a series of questions including a number of areas in the budget that had seen substantial increases from 2012 to 2013 (Councilor Saindon asked some very good questions). At this point administration requested some time to get the answers Mayor Decoux recessed for thirty minutes.
At 3:20 the meeting began again CAO Thompson supplied the answers to the previously asked questions. At this point Councilor Saindon raised a concern about himself and the CAO working with different numbers. After some banter back and forth between administration and Councilor Saindon it appears that Council and administration were working with different numbers. Everybody is scrambling, to which the CAO requests that this debate be carried on tomorrow at the G+P meeting. Council will be supplied with the real numbers tonight.  
First the Assessment base was of by 3.23% now nobody is working from the same page never had a real debate on which option to move forward with.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Incompetence creates Opportunity

The debate rages in the Crowsnest Pass about potential 7.5% tax increases, created by the surprise announcement April 8th that the Assessment Base had dropped 5.2% instead of the 2% that Council and Administration had been working with for the last six months.

Time to clarify things I have had a number of discussions since Monday with people that assume a 7.5% mill rate increase means a 7.5% tax increase. It does not, most people struggle to understand how our municipal taxes are determined in Alberta.

The mill rate is only half of the equation the other half is the assessed value, they are both very significant to the process but have to be measured together to determine the real
rate of taxation.

Take an average residential home in the Crowsnest Pass valued at $200,000 the municipal portion of the mill rate last year was 5.87.

The simplest way to look at that would be for every $1,000 in value you would pay $5.87 in property tax to the municipality.   ( 200 x $5.87 equals $1174)

Council throughout their much vaulted tri annual budget process took a position that the mill rate would increase by 2.5% a year. They boxed themselves into a corner, I am surprised that nobody in either Council or Administration figured this out.

Why? If they had stated there would not be a tax increase of more than 2.5% each year we would not be sitting here today having this discussion.

A closer look at their problem the mill rate going up 2.5% would have increased it from 5.87 to 6.02 which on that same $200,000 home would have raised the taxes 2.5% to $1204.

Nobody from either Council or Administration asked the question (at least not while I was there) what happens if the Assessment Base drops? (say 5%)

Now the tax on that same home that was valued at $200,000 last year at a mill rate of 5.87 even with a 2.5% increase in the mill rate this year, will be taxed at a rate of $1144 a drop of $30 from last year. (190 x 6.02 equals $1144)

Imagine a much worse case scenario if the Assessment Base had gone up 10% that $200,000 home last year hit with a 2.5% mill rate increase you would now be paying $1324 an increase of $150 over last year or a 15% increase, this is exactly why a commitment to a set mill rate increase does not work. Set Tax Rate absolutely.  

While this is good news for the taxpayers, what will council do next year if the Assessment base drops another 5% or even more. This mistake on the Assessment base and the fixation on not increasing the mill rate more than 2.5% has created a $300,000 shortfall this year.

What does Council do now? Well they can go back on their pledge, one of the fundamental planks of their tri annual budget and increase the mill rate 7.5%, the other suggestion which I feel is even a worse option would be to take $295,000 out of reserves.

I agree with Councilor Saindon’s motion to find 4% fat in the system and reduce it. It will be very interesting to see what recommendations administration comes back with. The $300,000 shortfall could be made up very quickly by looking at the level of administration we have built and the dollars we pay to maintain them. Let us hope Council does not reduce service levels and programs such as recreation when we are running a very expensive bureaucracy.
Other options I am sure are many. Maybe we do not need to send four members of our council to conventions or our Mayor to an Economic Development Conference when the EDO is going to be working under the CAO, maybe our Weed Control person could survive one more year without a new pickup. Maybe the Public Relations consultant will not be receiving any more tax dollars from the Crowsnest Pass.

Five key points to my post today:

·        This could have been avoided if the 5.2% assessment base had been projected much earlier in the budget process.
·        If Council/Administration had been aware that a 2.5% mill rate is not the same has a 2.5% tax increase
·        Committing to a tax rate increase of a certain amount works, committing to a set mill rate does not, this is one of the down sides to a three year budget.
·        If council sticks to its 2.5% mill rate increase we will get a tax break, not due to them making a brilliant strategic move here, more because they got caught with their pants down on the assessment base. It could hurt the taxpayers much more when home values begin to rise we got lucky this time.
·        The devil is in the details, if Council makes $300,000 in cut’s where they are made is the most important issue to the public. Little Johnnie’s mom will not be happy if her boy can not play Lacrosse on a Friday night, but two brand new pickup's are running all over town.   

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Municipal Inspection Team for the Crowsnest Pass

The Municipal Inspection team will be in town next week to conduct interviews, if you are interested in talking to these people the contact information is below:

Chris Hutchinson, Principal
Description: Description: RusselFarmer_logo

Cell: 403-966-7259

Monday, April 8, 2013

Elk Valley-Bingay Mine plans suspended

This article appeared in today's Fernie Free press plus I have added a second article about the same company back from a more optimistic time (January). 

"Centermount suspend plans for new Elk Valley mine"

"New coal mine company plans to start production in 2016"

Much more positive news about the coal industry in general released today.

Despite its many doubters, the coal industry could soon roar back to life

Mumbling and Bumbling at the Eleventh Hour-2013 Mill Rate

Today at 3pm I attended a Special Council Meeting fully expecting to hear First Reading on the mill rate bylaw. 
The bylaw that drives the revenues, that operates the municipality, it's programs it's facilities and everything else that matters to us the taxpayers. 

Well after five months of intense debate, numerous meeting, two years of working on the tri annual budget and a Council commitment to not increase the mill rate by more than 2.5% per year we have a big oops.

Here at the eleventh hour we find out that the 2% reduction in the assessment base that administration and council had anticipated is really a 5% reduction. 
What does that mean in simple terms? a short fall of "$295,000" this year, what did administration offer as a solution to that short fall? Two options, one to take $295,000 out of reserves or two to increase the mill rate by 7.5%.  
What did council do, they voted to have administration come back with a 4% reduction in the operating budget despite administration claims that the budget has already been cut to the bone and that they would now have to look at reducing services and programs. Let`s not lose site of the fact that cutting the operating budget by 4% over a twelve month period is one thing by the time the mill rate is in place one third of the year will have gone by, in reality that 4% will become 6% over an eight month period. 

Timing-Council must give the mill rate bylaw three reading, which they have not been willing to do in one meeting so they have to find $300,000 in savings and schedule another special meeting between now and next Tuesday the 16th.  If third reading is not done by the 16th bills will not go out on time, (April 30th) the province requires that  residents have 60 days from the date of billing to pay their bills. Administration claims that somewhere between 65-70% of our residents pay their taxes in one payment at the June 30th dead line. Which means if the bills are late the municipality runs into a cash flow problem at the end of June.

Can you believe that we are in this position on April 8th after five months of the Budget process. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Fire-Rescue costs in the Crowsnest Pass- Or making the numbers work

Thanks to Transparency CNP (link available on right hand side) I have taken all the Budget numbers for the Fire and Rescue Department for 2012. Then attempted to provide the numbers for 2013 using assumptions listed below.
First of all any costs that were specific to buildings and their up keep I have used 75% of the costs from 2012 has we are now running three buildings instead of four.
Any costs associated with personnel I have used 56% of what we allowed in 2012 based on there being fifty  personnel instead of the previous  ninety.
Then any costs that were specific to the previous Rescue station I have eliminated except for notes that you will see below the figures shown.

Fire/Rescue  2012 2013
Salaried Personnel $43,637 $220,000 Note 1
Honorariums/Wages $71,372 $90,000 Note 2
Building Maintenance $12,000 $9,000 1 FH closed
Benefit Costs $34,346 $93,000 Note 3
Building Maint Benefit costs $2,536 $1,902 1 FH closed
Meals + Lodgings $1,000 $560 56%
Memberships + Registrations $1,775 $994 56%
Freight + Express $750 $750
Emergency Response System $2,880 $2,880
Phone + Answering Service $11,250 $11,250
Travel $1,000 $560 56%
Advertising $500 $500
Goodwill $1,000 $1,000
Subscripitions + Publications $3,093 $3,093
Training $13,310 $37,500 Note 4
Contracted Services $99,660 $144,000 Note 5
Building Repairs $4,000 $3,000 1 FH Closed
Mach + Equip Repairs $7,500 $5,625 1 FH Closed
Radio Equip $2,300 $1,725 1 FH Closed
Tire Repairs $100 $75 1 FH Closed
Licenses + Permits $16,972 $12,729 1 FH Closed
General Insurance $30,400 $22,800 1 FH Closed
Supplies $10,600 $7,950 1 FH Closed
Clothing Expense $27,860 $15,602 56%
Postage Photo copier $100 $75 1 FH Closed
Gas + Oil $4,300 $3,225 1 FH Closed
Mach + Vech Parts $16,000 $12,000 1 FH Closed
Building Maint Materials $4,500 $3,375 1 FH Closed
Utilities Elec W S G $12,946 $9,710 1 FH Closed
Utilities Gas $24,639 $18,479 1 FH Closed
Interest on LTD $12,340 $12,340
Rescue Squad
Honorariums/Wages $23,043 $0 Included above
Build Maint Wages $3,000 $0 Moved
Benefit Costs $5,000 $0 Included above
Building Maint Benefit costs $634 $0 Moved
Group Insurance Plan $2,300 $2,300
Memberships + Registrations $1,425 $1,425
Freight + Express $100 $100
Telephone + Answering Service $3,064 $0 Included above
Contracted Services $1,000 $0
Foothills Regional Service $22,300 $22,300
Mach + Equip Repairs $1,000 $1,000
Radio Equip $500 $500
Licenses + Permits $3,943 $3,943
General Insurance $7,000 $0 Moved
Supplies $2,650 $0 Moved
Clothing Expense $9,400 $0 Included above
Postage Photo copier $50 $0 Included above
Gas + Oil $3,000 $3,000
Mach + Vech Parts $4,000 $4,000
Build Maint Materials $1,000 $0 Moved
Utilties E W S G $1,600 $0 Moved
Interest on LTD $4,095 $4,095
Uncollectable accounts $2,000 $2,000
Total  $576,770 $790,362
Revenue: Note 6
Fire Depts Cost Recovery $17,000 $17,000
Firesmart Grant Program $50,000 $50,000
FSEPP Emergency Preparedness $4,000 $4,000
Rescue Squad Cost Recovery $30,000 $30,000
Total  $101,000 $101,000
Costs minus Revenues $475,770 $689,362
Operating Cost for 2013  $437,237

Note 1: Salaried Personnel used one third of Directors salary $40,000
$95,000 for Fire Chief and $85,000 for Deputy Fire Chief
Total of $220,000

Note 2: Honorariums/Wages
Used $500 a month per captain (3) $75 per member per month to be on call, (50) and an average of (150) calls per year at (6) people showing up for (2) hours at $15 per hour.

Note 3: Used 30% for benefits on Salaries,Honorariums and Wages same has 2012.

Note 4: Training allowed (1) hour per week per member (50) at $15 per hour times (50) weeks.

Note 5: Contracted costs I allowed for (3) full time Firemen at $6,000 per month each for (8) months.

Note 6: I assumed same revenues as 2012.

The number they are showing for 2013 is $437,000 my numbers come to $689,000. We all know numbers can be juggled, for example where you assign your Director's dollars can have an impact of 10-30% on a department's budget.

Anybody that feels my numbers are out of whack, or feels I have used the wrong assumptions give me a call at 403 563 4128 I would be more than glad to change them.

When the numbers come out for the Municipalities year end audit I will take the numbers from the 2012 budget for Wages/Benefits etc and show my readers how they created a surplus for 2012.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Inspiration for the new Crowsnest Pass Brand

I am only one of many residents right now that are trying to figure out where the Inspiration for our new brand came from.
I think I may have found the answer on my fellow bloggers latest post regarding A return to Mountain Freedom and one of the comments available at.