While we realize neither Canada nor the Bow Valley have snapped out of the economic downturn as quickly as some had hoped, municipal governments may have to stray away from a policy of rigidly holding the line when it comes to tax increases.
While no Valley resident would voluntarily take on increased property taxes, there is some risk in allowing trained, professional staffers to be pushed out of the area due to budget cuts.
In back-to-back weeks now, RMO has reported on Banff planning positions being cut – first that of Heritage planner Claire Wilkinson (contract position), and now long-time recreation planner Sue Webb.
Not only will Banff likely lose these people entirely, which is a loss to the community, the departments they have served may take some time to recover. If personnel are cut, in all likelihood the slack will have to be picked up by others on staff – possibly leading to increased overtime or burnout. If increased overtime is required to make up for a staffer’s leaving, where is the saving?
Yes, at first glance, some tens of thousands of dollars will be saved, but as it is unlikely that Banff’s heritage or recreation interests are going to wane, even into buildout, whenever that happens, the departments will likely suffer.
Being that Banff’s planning department has been promoting development of smaller properties and suites as the answer to affordable housing issues, planning will continue to be important.
And if, as some have expressed concerns over, Banff’s heritage corporation is negatively affected, where will that leave the promotion, preservation, protection, enhancement and management of Banff’s heritage resources?
Banffites are rightly proud of their history and when you see lineups to enter heritage properties as part of Doors Open Banff, you realize the national park’s history is important to many others.
Requirements for planners may decline as buildout approaches, but that time is not now.
As to the recreation planner’s job being axed, if Banff wants to continue billing itself as a tourist destination that offers everything; part of the everything is the town’s recreation facilities, including trails and open spaces.
As former Mayor John Stutz used to pitch to any provincial or federal ear available… Banff is a small town which over a calendar year provides services to millions. Those services include recreation facilities, including the tragically designed “Black Death” cinder track which surrounds the Rec Grounds soccer/rugby pitch which is scheduled for upgrades.
Meanwhile in Canmore, council realized at the last minute broad cuts of $1 million in the operational budget meant the mayor would be paying for part of his job out of his own pocket.
After putting $10,000 back in their own budget, one can only wonder if there are any other places the cuts went too deep.
That brings us to the $200,000 from salaries, wages and benefits on top of $260,000 already pruned away by administration.
Without specific direction, where these cuts come from and how they may or may not affect service levels or department workloads is speculation until the details come back to council as information.
At some point, if a hardline approach to tax increases isn’t eased up, no services will be provided because they will become cost-prohibitive.