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Canmore municipal property taxes set with budget passed

“When it comes down to it, nobody likes tax increases, including council and Town administration. I think it’s important to recognize that municipalities everywhere are feeling budgetary hits to maintain the status quo and Canmore is not immune to these pressures.”
Canmore Civic Centre 1
Canmore Civic Centre. RMO FILE PHOTO

CANMORE – Canmore residents now know what their municipal property tax bill for be for 2024.

Town council approved a 7.6 per cent municipal tax increase for 2024 to collect $77 million to run all municipally-led tax- and utility-supported services in the community.

For a median residential household valued at $969,000 and a projected 7.6 per cent increase, it would mean an annual increase of $151 or $12.58 a month.

“Without a doubt, inflation was the single greatest factor in the budget increase this year. We really saw that or we really see that in the cost of services that we contract, in the cost of living adjustment for our staffing and in the quotes that we’re getting back for our capital projects,” said Mayor Sean Krausert. “Everything is going up considerably.”

Among the steep increases for factors largely outside the Town’s control are $550,000 for cost-of-living adjustments, $222,000 third-party costs for services such as the RCMP and $125,000 for power and natural gas increases.

The amendments to the operating budget led to an extra $747,000 in costs. A one per cent increase or decrease in the budget represents about $320,000.

The additional changes mean the collected budget will total $77 million compared to the $73.2 million budgeted last year, but $34.8 million is for municipal taxes compared to the previously budgeted amount of $34.2 million.

The education tax requisite – which makes up roughly half of a landowner’s property tax bill – is set by the province but collected by municipalities. It is traditionally announced by the province in February or March. The education requisition forecasted by Town staff used $23.9 million.

Krausert said reserves and savings are often an easy aspect to make cuts from the budget, but it presents significant issues further down the road if such moves are made.

He noted council was “very deliberate” in avoiding cutting those contributions and wanted to make sure services for residents were maintained.

“We’re providing the services requested and needed by residents,” he said. “As we were shown through our citizen satisfaction survey, [those services] are being appreciated by residents. To answer a budget increase with a service cut, did not pass the cost-benefit analysis.

The amount we may have saved on a service cut may not have made that much of a difference and yet citizens would really feel it in losing the services they’ve come to expect.”

Council approved the community evaluator position to become full-time and an increase for the fruit tree removal and replacement program on public land was also increased.

Council approved a 12.5 per cent increase in 2023 and a 5.5 per cent jump for 2024 as part of its multi-year budget. However, due to inflation and increased costs for projects, it led to an extra 2.1 per cent increase.

Municipal tax increases in 2025 and 2026 are forecasted to be 7.2 and 3.2 per cent, respectively.

The budget has the forecasted municipal tax requirement at $37.78 million in 2025 and $39.41 million in 2026.

A $185,000 increase for the outside rock wall refurbishment at Elevation Place and $250,000 for the final design for the cemetery and a new columbarium were approved by council. The costs will come from Town reserves.

Council cancelled four capital projects in heliport landing pad resurfacing, a passenger rail station and impact study, a long-range facility needs report and asset management software needs assessment. The Quarry Lake jumping platform was also closed out. The total savings are roughly $360,000.

Council also approved several projects to be pushed back to 2025 and 2026 to help offset costs of $5.53 million needed to be paid by the Town as part of the Cougar Creek flood mitigation project. The funded scope for the flood mitigation work that will cost the Town $8.3 million was also amended.

A series of projects such as an update to the long-term financial strategy, recreation facility feasibility study and infrastructure-related projects were authorized by council to be drawn from reserves totalling $3.48 million.

Several infrastructure projects such as pathway connectivity, Railway Avenue-related and street and drain rehabilitation were increased by $2.115 million through reserves and provincial and federal grants.

A requirement to increase the utility reserve to hit $8 million by 2028 also required a change to previously approved water and wastewater rates.

The 12 per cent increase means previous approval of $24.33 for water and $41.44 for wastewater will go to $25.83 and $43.99, respectively, a month. All utility-related services are self-supporting for all costs to be recovered through approved rates.

The change in rates come with the Utility Master Plan projecting higher than previously anticipated costs in replacing aging water and sewer lines between 2037-41 for about $53 million. Canmore’s wastewater treatment plant also forecasted about $100 million in necessary improvements over the next 10 years, largely due to environmental regulatory changes by the province.

The residential waste collection will increase from the previously approved $20.76 to $22.74, but the residential recycling rate will remain at the approved $18.21 and commercial recycling at $26.58. All rates are paid monthly and are designed to be cost-recovery.

A staff report noted the Town of Banff rate for hauling Canmore’s garbage increased by about $110,000 – or 23 per cent – due to inflation, wages, fuel costs and vehicle maintenance.

Council’s approval of the budget will also see an increase in pricing during peak season for visitor paid parking.

Quarry Lake will go to $10 an hour with a two-hour minimum from May 15 to Oct. 15, 2024. From Jan. 1 to May 14 and Oct. 16 to Dec. 31 it will remain at $2.50 an hour.

Downtown paid parking will be $4 an hour from May 15 to Oct. 15, 2024, and $3 on weekends and holidays from Oct. 16 to Dec. 31, 2024. It will be $2 an hour from Jan. 1 to May 14 and Oct. 16 to Dec. 31, except for weekends and holidays.

Riverside Park and the boat launch area will be added to paid parking starting in 2024. From Jan. 1 to May 14 and Oct. 16 to Dec. 31 it will be $2 an hour, with the exception of weekends and holidays from Oct. 16 to Dec. 31 when it’s $3 an hour. From Jan. 1 to May 14 it will be $2 an hour. All residents who register continue to get three free hours of parking a day.

An attempt by Coun. Wade Graham to discuss potentially freezing a pay increase for downtown visitor paid parking for Mondays to Thursdays was halted because of procedural issues.

The attempted motion to discuss was done after council had approved the operating budget, leading a necessary two-thirds of council to consider a motion being brought forward.

“I’m concerned about 2024 economic viabilities,” Graham said attempting to have council discuss the topic. “I get to witness and watch the downtown vibrancy first hand. I’ve noticed, and the stats would agree, only during July did we hit 75 per cent of capacity. We have a two-year trend. Two years is a hard thing to draw a trend line on, so I take that data cautiously.”

Graham apologized for the procedural error, but asked for council to consider the topic for a “fulsome discussion.”

The vote fell short of the five necessary councillors, with Krausert and Couns. Joanna McCallum and Jeff Hilstad voting against it.

Both Krausert and McCallum highlighted it had been discussed at finance committee – where it was defeated – and there wasn’t a need to debate the topic again.

“I believe the finance committee had quite a fulsome discussion on this topic and that democracy came into play,” McCallum said.

Krausert added the procedural issues made it difficult to vote for it and deal with potential motions in advance.

“I believe finance committee did some really good work and had good discussion, so I don’t think there’s a need to reconsider that motion,” he said.

Council also approved first reading for borrowing bylaws of $1.6 million for debenture for odour control at the wastewater treatment plant, a borrowing increase of $6 million to replace and capacity upgrade to water treatment plant No. 2 to bring it to $20.1 million, a borrowing decrease of $875,000 for 43 Railway Ave. wastewater upgrade and repealing Bow Valley Trail wastewater upgrade phase three that would’ve cost $342,000 from debenture.

The water treatment plant No. 2 is covered through off-site levies, utility debt, reserves and grants.

Andreas Comeau, the Town’s manager of public works, said the increase is due to construction costs. The Town received three bids, but all were over the set budget.

“We have worked with the lowest bidder to hold their pricing, look at where there’s some potential for reductions, they’re a very qualified bidder and we’ll have a good agreement if we get approval from council for the additional funds to build a plant the community needs,” he said.

Krausert called it “another example of the incredible price escalation that everyone is seeing in the construction sector due to a variety of factors beyond our control.”

Second and third readings for the borrowing bylaw will return Jan. 9 to council and if there’s no court challenge, it will be valid Feb. 9. The final mill rate for the Town is typically set in early spring.

“When it comes down to it, nobody likes tax increases, including council and Town administration,” Krausert said. “I think it’s important to recognize that municipalities everywhere are feeling budgetary hits to maintain the status quo and Canmore is not immune to these pressures.”

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