December 13th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 50
2018 budget discussions continue throughout the week
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Pass Herald Reporter
At budget meetings last week, Council strived to develop the draft 2018 budget in order to bring tax rate increases to 2.5% for residential and 3.5% for non-residential. The overall utility rate increase is 2.5%, which translates to a $4.32 increase to the utility bill bi-monthly, or $2.16 monthly.

The 2018 budget has not been officially passed, with deliberations continuing this week. The tax rates will not be finalized until the municipality receives the final assessment numbers early in the new year.

The next budget meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, December 12. The Pass Herald was unable to include the results of this meeting as it occurs after the paper goes to press. Please visit our Facebook page for an update on the 2018 budget deliberations.

Council expressed a goal to keep the tax increase as reasonable as possible, considering that businesses and residents will be hit with other factors in 2018, such as the minimum wage increase and the carbon tax.

Overall, there has been a 9% increase to the 2018 budget from 2017.

The budget shows approximately $17 million in expenditures for 2018 and revenue is projected at $9.5 million, a 2% increase over last year, mostly coming from the successful operation of the pool and ski hill. The net cost of operations is proposed at $7.4 million.

Council had to account for several compulsory expenditures, including a 3% Cost-Of-Living Adjustment (COLA) increase, a 2.5% Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase and a 15% carbon tax levy increase. There is also an allocated $300,000 for long-term debt repayment.
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The proposed budget includes a 3% transfer to reserves with an additional 2% from utilities, or a net transfer of $458,832. Over the last few years, Council has been gradually building up reserves. By the end of 2017, reserves are estimated to be at approximately $2.5 million. By the end of 2018, the projected balance is $2,927,268.

Last week, Council heard from municipal groups and approved Category 1 and 2 grant applications, approving funding to 12 institutions for a total of $246,100. Council also reviewed all 2017 accomplishments and 2018 goals as presented by each municipal department and voted on funding allocations and cuts to programming or amounts requested.

Some highlights from their discussions include:

Albert Stella Memorial Arena (ASMA)

Council voted to continue running ASMA in the new year, but will make a decision whether to renovate or demolish the facility in 2018. A sum of $93,878 is included in the 2018 capital budget for operating the facility for another year. Council directed administration to compile an engineering analysis of ASMA to get an idea of what it would cost to renovate the facility and bring it up to standards, after which Council will make a decision on whether it is more appropriate to demolish the building for $200,000 or invest in its upkeep and maintenance.
The $225,000 for an outdoor skate park, which is part and parcel dependent on the decision of ASMA, has also been deferred to 2019.

Water meters

Council voted to defer the $2.3 million installation of water meters project to the 2019 capital budget. However, Council was in agreement that it’s high time water meters be installed in the community. Crowsnest Pass is one of the few municipalities in Canada that does not have water meters, which hinders the municipality’s ability to obtain grants from the provincial and federal government.
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Public education and open houses will commence in 2018. Administration was directed to bring back a formalized timeline for the process before the end of March 2018. The project is estimated to cost $2.3 million.

Currently in Crowsnest Pass, households and commercial establishments pay a flat rate for water use. Water meters will ensure a pay-per-use system, which may result in a decreased monthly bill for some residences and an increase for others.

To finance the project, administration proposed a short-term debt over a three to five year period.

0.6 FTE for Protective Services

Council approved adding a 0.6 FTE Administrative Assistant position for Protective Services, subject to Administration finding the money within the existing budget. No additional funds were allocated towards this position.

Ski hill and pool budget

The ski hill and pool budget increased by 160% and 134% respectively but Council noted that their increase seems justified, as both facilities are initiating new strategies, elevating the service levels and adding new programming that have the potential to generate increased streams of revenue.

Council approved summer programming at the ski hill for $59,249. Four different products are to be offered at the Pass Powderkeg: weddings, a mountain biking program, interpretive guiding and lodge rentals for events.

RIDE Crowsnest

Council has voted to make changes to the municipal bus service RIDE Crowsnest in 2018. Beginning March 1, service will be reduced to two days a week that are determined by the Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) board.

The decision was spurred due to low ridership, even with the municipality offering six free months of service to celebrate Canada 150. The bus was making 250 to 300 trips per month which, which means approximately six riders per day when taking into account that most riders need transportation twice, to and from a location.

The 2017 budget allocated $106,795 to this service.

OT report

Administration presented an overtime report for 2017. The total amount of overtime hours - which includes call-outs, standby and shift differentials - across all departments amounted to 5,212 hours. The department that accounted for the great majority of overtime was public works, at 3,232 hours. The Director of Development, Engineering & Operations noted that a majority accounts for workers responding to calls after-hours and that actual working overtime is at 1,800 hours.

Council requested that Administration provide details of overtime and causal hours by department for 2016.

December 13th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 50
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