BANFF – Banff’s draft budget proposes a 10.26 per cent hike in municipal taxation for 2022 as a starting point.
Dubbed as a recovery budget coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the increase is comprised of 5.4 per cent from inflationary costs plus almost 4.9 per cent for previously approved projects such as a much-talked about additional RCMP position.
It also includes about $660,000 from taxes to increase staff wages to fully account for inflation. Another $159,000 would also be required from utility fees to fill the wage gap.
“Like so many other individuals, businesses, organizations, the municipality is in the same situation where we are looking at having to cover the cost of inflation,” said Mayor Corrie DiManno.
“We’re also really needing to focus on our staff as an organization and that’s going to come with a significant price tag this budget.”
The starting point of a 10.26 per cent municipal property tax increase over 2022 represents an increase of about $9.70 per month for a typical residential property assessed at $467,100. The province of Alberta won’t set the school tax requisition until the spring.
At service review, which gets underway on Nov. 30, council will also consider 37 new projects or programs, totalling about $1.2 million in the operating budget and $1.9 million in the capital budget.
An increase in the operating budget of $202,300 equates to an increase in the municipal property tax levy of one per cent.
Among the new service level requests are new staff positions, including a communications position and a finance officer. Administration’s request for these positions comes out of an independent staffing level analysis conducted by MNP Consulting.
DiManno said she is supportive of positions required to maintain current levels of services.
“We had a third-party consultant look at the pressure points in the organization and those were departments where it was identified their current workload is in excess of meeting the same level of service,” she said.
“For instance, we function at a high level when it comes to communicating with our residents and I believe that’s an expectation that not only benefits residents but is what is expected from us. In order to maintain it, the reality is you need the capacity and bandwidth to do that."
Other new positions proposed by administration are also up for discussion such as the addition of IT personnel for cyber security enhancements, an administrative cemeteries’ position, a new full-time bylaw officer, stand-alone fire chief position, and a FireSmart officer.
There are calls for funds to help strengthen Indigenous relationships, a software consultant, more electric or hybrid vehicles, increased winter pedestrian route snow and ice removal, additional bike racks downtown, and an energy efficiency retrofit for the Fire Hall.
In addition, the budget proposes adding more buses on weekends and evenings on Roam’s regional Canmore-Banff service, design work on a Mountain Avenue express bus lane towards downtown, and design on a new intersection and road redevelopment on Caribou and Lynx.
DiManno said it will be a difficult budget to tackle, but she will use different filters for considering each new request.
“In an economic time like this, the main filters for me is do we need this? Will this help advance any of our strategic goals and does this help us build resiliency as a community?” she said.
“It’s going to be a very difficult budget, but supporting an initiative like transit will help us build that resilience in the long run… it’s not something I think we can afford to not remain finally committed to.”
The mayor is also interested in exploring if some initiatives can be paid via reserves such as paid parking and economic recovery reserves.
“I am hoping if we are adding service that helps build resiliency that we can try and draw from those reserves rather than being tax-supported,” she said.
Town Manager Kelly Gibson said the 2023 review of municipal services strives to balance the needs and aspirations of Banff residents with the economic realities of the pandemic recovery.
“We understand the inflationary pressures affecting everyone, and we have worked hard to keep taxes as affordable as possible,” he said in a news release.
“The fact is, providing 2022’s level of services will cost more in 2023 because the municipality is facing similar inflationary impacts as residents.”
In addition, Gibson said Banff’s economy showed faster and stronger recovery than expected, adding the municipality is in a position to rebuild to a more sustainable financial position by reversing the deep cuts made in 2020 when the pandemic struck.
“We will continue to maintain a cautious financial strategy due to economic uncertainty in 2023, and building back our reserves will be important for future financial resilience,” he said.
The Town of Banff’s total capital reserves are forecasted to be in a deficit at the end of 2023 because of cuts to reserve transfers in 2020 and 2021. Reserves will return to positive position in 2024 due to a rebuilding of annual transfers.
DiManno encourages the community to get involved in service review and budget, noting all feedback is welcome.
“It’s really important for council to hear what Banffites want us to focus on when it comes to budget,” she said.
“We want to hear if they believe there are services that could be reduced or if they believe in some of the service levels request being put forward.”
2023 Budget Facts and Figures
Total Expenditures & Sources of Funding
- Total proposed 2023 Expenditures: $56.8 million
- Property taxes: 38 per cent
- Utility fees: 21 per cent
- Sales of goods and services: 10 per cent
- Business licenses: 10 per cent
- Grants: Eight per cent
- Visitor pay parking: Five per cent
- Other sources (permits, fees, fines, rentals): Eight per cent
- Total debt will be $18,732,682 by the end of 2022, 23 per cent of Banff’s total debt limit.
- 2023 Debt Servicing will be $5,587,866, 41 per cent of Banff’s debt service limit. This percentage will decline quickly with the repayment of Bear Street redevelopment and Aster affordable housing loans in 2023.
- At the end of 2023, the only remaining tax-supported debt is on the Fenlands loan from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, now at $816,000 remaining in the capital. Interest rate for current municipal debt financing is fixed at far below consumer rates, at an average of 2.1 per cent.
- Sources of debt repayment:
- Rent: 67 per cent
- The Aster condo sales: 20 per cent
- Property taxes: Seven per cent
- Utility Fees: Six per cent
- Annual reduction to pre-COVID-19 general capital reserve funding:
- 2020 - $1,903,234
- 2021 - $1,665,200
- 2022 - $1,453,500
- 2023 - $1,453,500
- 2024 - $969,000
- 2025 - $484,500
- Total - $7,928,934