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Canmore municipal reserves receive $2 million bump

“Historically, our surpluses were generally in that two to three per cent of expenditures range.”
Canmore Civic Centre 2
Canmore Civic Centre. RMO FILE PHOTO

CANMORE – Canmore’s municipal reserves will receive an influx of more than $2 million.

The Town’s finance committee approved a $2.11 million surplus from the 2023 operating budget to be added to four municipal reserves.

The integrated transportation management reserve will receive $711,000 and the tax stabilization reserve will get $600,000. The general municipal capital reserve will have $550,000 directed to it and the asset replacement/rehabilitation reserve will get $250,500.

“Historically, our surpluses were generally in that two to three per cent of expenditures range,” said Chelsey Gibbons, the Town’s manager of finance.

A staff report highlighted a key factor to the surplus was $912,000 in grants, with $711,000 from the low-income transit pass program and $201,000 for an Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) operating increase.

There were additional savings of $155,000 for borrowing costs for the new fire station, $177,000 in savings for snow and ice control, $169,000 increase in municipal enforcement ticket revenue, $138,000 in extra fire services contracted services and $134,000 savings in recreation contracts.

The revenue for paid parking was budgeted at $1.15 million, but generated $1.97 million in net revenue. The $791,000 difference was transferred to the integrated transportation management reserve.

“Municipalities are not permitted to budget or incur unfunded deficits, and so administration strives for a careful balance between managing revenues and expenses to ensure the Town does not end up in a deficit position, while also ensuring the programs, services and projects as included in the budget, are proceeding,” stated a staff report.

The $550,000 directed into the general municipal capital reserve will potentially be used for initiatives with the Town’s Housing Action Plan, which will come to council for decision in May.

“I like the looking ahead, so we have the greater resources with regards to our transportation needs in the future,” said Mayor Sean Krausert. “Seeing the needs of the tax stabilization reserve, making sure it’s healthy and the municipal capital reserve should we decide in May to use it for the Housing Action Plan needs.”

Non-staffing savings in Town departments came to $875,000, but the budgeted slippage – when unfilled positions cause savings – was $241,000 above the budgeted $820,000.

Gibbons said there were increased contracted positions to cover vacant jobs, while reserve-funded positions that are unfilled have the money go back into the dedicated reserve.

“The other thing that is changing as an organization is historically when we would have vacancies, we would work with the department to take on the additional workload and that’s not becoming possible anymore,” said Town CAO Sally Caudill. “We’re often looking at hiring contractors, which do come at a higher expense or other ways of filling vacancies temporarily while we do a full recruitment. That’s a shift instead of just plugging with the vacancy. We’re either not getting certain projects done or filling that hole in different ways.”

Caudill noted some surpluses already have received council direction on where to go such as the revenue from paid parking.

At the last budget, council approved a framework that would see paid parking revenue go to help the Town’s Roam transit requisition, the Town Centre grant program and Rocky Mountain Heritage Foundation for Quarry Lake. The remaining funds go to the new integrated transportation management reserve.

The development application reserve, approved by council in 2022, similarly allows for potential additional resources to be provided for the Town’s planning and development and engineering departments. The reserve is used to cover a senior development planner that was used for the Palliser Trail area structure plan and ongoing work for the downtown area redevelopment plan.

“If we’re following council policy, we don’t need a motion of council,” Caudill said. “The policy for the reserve already indicates that’s what will happen. We do the same thing with the economic development reserve. It’s already in policy that’s what will happen.”

Avail LLP, the Town’s independent auditor for its financial statements, gave the Town a clean bill of financial health.

The Town ended 2023 with financial assets of $110.99 million and liabilities of $87.6 million. Its net financial assets – such as property, vehicles and buildings – were $432.99 million, with accumulated surplus coming in at $456.4 million.

At the end of 2023, the Town held long-term debt of $45.6 million, largely supported through tax-related debentures. The Town is set to pay $2.64 million in principal and $1.26 million in interest for long-term debt payment in 2024.

Under the Municipal Government Act, the Town is eligible to hold total long-term debt of $105.76 million, with the debt limit calculated at 1.5 times the amount of revenue collected by a municipality. The Town, however, has council approved policy to cap municipal debt at 75 per cent of what’s allowed under the MGA.

In 2023, the Town collected $32.23 million in municipal property taxes, with the remaining $74.74 million of revenue coming from grants, investment income, development levies, licences and permits and rental and user fees. It also collected $24.74 million for education taxes on behalf of the province and $1.54 million for the seniors’ requisition.

Of $70.77 million in expenses, there was $25.9 million for staff and benefits; $15.4 million for water supply and distribution and waste management; $7.7 million for planning and development – including $4.12 million for public housing operations – and $14.16 million for recreation and culture such as parks, libraries and museums.

The Town finished 2023 with operating reserves of $6.9 million and capital reserves of $58.2 million.

For council – including salary, benefits and allowances – Mayor Sean Krausert earned $123,528 and Coun. Joanna McCallum made $56,618. Coun. Jeff Mah earned $54,818, with Coun. Tanya Foubert at $53,962, Coun. Karen Marra at $52,749, Coun. Wade Graham at $51,693 and Coun. Jeff Hilstad at $48,072.

Council’s salary includes the base pay, but also other factors such as meetings, committee and commission appointments and travel.

Gibbons reminded council surpluses can’t always be relied on, especially with new reserves having dedicated funding sources rather than going into surpluses.

Council approved in the 2024 budget an update to the Town’s long-term financial strategy, which was first approved in 2017.

“Moving forward, it’s reasonable to expect the Town will likely not experience surpluses of the same magnitude that we had historically,” Gibbons said. “We really can’t rely on those surpluses as a mechanism for replenishment for our reserves.”


  • 2018: $1.42 million
  • 2019: $1.73 million
  • 2020: $1.32 million
  • 2021: $2.81 million
  • 2022: $243,026
  • 2023: $2.11 million
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