December 19th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 51
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Council passes 2019 budget
Residential tax rate to increase by 2.5 percent, commercial by 3.5 percent, utilities by 1.5 percent
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Anna Kroupina Photo
Crowsnest Pass Municipal Council from left tor right: Councillors Marlene Anctil, Dave Filipuzzi, Doreen Glavin, Mayor Blair Painter, Councillors Lisa Sygutek, Gordon Lundy and Dean Ward.
ANNA KROUPINA
Pass Herald Reporter
At a meeting on December 14, Council passed the 2019 Municipal Operating and Capital Budget.

The budget includes a tax increase of 2.5 percent for residential properties, 3.5 percent for commercial and 1.5 percent for utilities.

For a residence appraised at $300,000, the 2.5 percent tax increase translates to an additional payment of $51 per year, or approximately $4.25 a month. On a $500,000 business, this means an approximate $200 increase per year, or about $17 per month.

Average household utilities will see an increase of $16.20 per year or about $1.35 a month. The increase in utilities takes event in July 2019.

This was the first budget process at which the municipality provided an opportunity for public input on the draft budget package. However, they received no responses or feedback from community members.

Council approved 33 new initiatives for 2019 totaling $2.3 million. Throughout several budget meetings, Councillors debated which projects to pursue in 2019 and which ones would need to be deferred to 2020 in order to meet the 2.5 and 3.5 percent residential and commercial tax increase, respectively. The approved budget package, which contains all new initiatives, will be posted on the municipal website.
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Some highlights from the 2019 budget process:

STAFFING

The municipality will be hiring a full-time Economic Development Officer (EDO) in 2019, expected to begin roughly partway through the year. As this is a new position for the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass, the Town of Pincher Creek has been invited to a Governance & Priorities meeting in the new year to discuss the responsibilities of their EDO to give Council and Administration a better idea of the scope for the role. The municipality has also secured a grant for $50,000 that will go towards wages for the EDO.

The municipality will also be hiring a full-time Health and Safety Officer whose primary role will be to ensure the municipality is in compliance with Occupational Health and Safety legislation.

The Administrative Assistant position for the Fire Department that was approved as a trial in 2018 will be eliminated for 2019. Chief Jesse Fox says he will work to find efficiencies within his department to accommodate the loss of the position.

There is also an approval for a part-time hire for an in-house IT position to complement contracted IT Services.

PASS POWDERKEG

In 2018, Pass Powderkeg tripled their skier visits from 4,800 to 14,700 and had the earliest opening day ever on November 10, 2018. In 2019, they are aiming to further increase their skier visits to 19,000. The hill has also signed an agreement to sell PPK tickets at Costco starting December 2018.

In addition to some necessary capital purchases and investments for the ski hill – like purchasing new uniforms and radios, repairing the roof and installing a water system pump – Council voted to purchase the snow-making cannons for $64,915.
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Throughout 2018, the municipality was leasing the snow guns for $23,000 per year. Council was faced with a choice: continue leasing for $23,000 a year indefinitely, or purchase them for $64,915. Council held discussions about how quickly snow gun technology is changing and whether it would be a worthwhile investment to make the purchase.

"We either pay $64,000 and own something, or we pay $69,000 over the next three years and own nothing,” said Councillor Dean Ward, summing up his motivations for voting to purchase the snow cannons.
E-BIKES

Last summer, The Pass Powderkeg Ski Society purchased five e-bikes totalling $10,000. The 2018 RadRover Electric Fat Bikes arrived at the beginning of June 2018 and were rented out from the Crowsnest Community Pool. The Society saw this as an economic development opportunity with twofold benefits, attracting visitors to the area and promoting an active lifestyle.

However, the Society has recently sold three of the five e-bikes for $1,500 each. According to Council, the fat-tire e-bikes did not satisfactorily meet the needs that the Society wanted to achieve. They now wish to purchase three more e-bikes of a different model. Council stressed that any capital purchases need to be approved by Council.

Under the operating agreement between the municipality and Pass Powderkeg Ski Area, any sale of municipal assets must be approved by Council, which did not happen in this case.

Despite multiple attempts, members of the Pass Powderkeg Ski Society did not return The Pass Herald’s requests for an interview to discuss the motivations behind the sale and the intent going forward.

POOL

The Pass Community Pool had a very successful first full year of operation post construction. User numbers increased by approximately 40 percent and revenue grew by 60 percent. For 2019, they have set a goal to increase user traffic at the pool by another 20 percent.
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CATEGORY 3 & STARS

In 2019, the Category 3 funding policy will no longer be available to groups seeking funding on a regular basis for events they host annually. Council wished to see groups “get creative with their funding” instead of relying on the municipality's contribution. Instead, Category 3 grants will be intended for one-time funding opportunities for new events. Afterwards, an organization must move to Category 1 or 2 if it is an ongoing request for the same event, and will be approved or denied at Council’s discretion.

As a result, Council voted to not fund 12 groups the $500 they were initially allocated in the draft budget, and instead donate the full $6,000 to “Learning for Life - Ready for Change” (see the Dec. 5 issue of the Pass Herald for more on this initiative).

Council also carried a motion to donate $5,000 to STARS annually from Category 1.

ICE PLANT

One of the municipality's largest new purchases in 2019 will be an ice plant for the Coleman Sportsplex, approved for $1,034,700. Mandatory repairs were performed in fall 2018 on the current ammonia ice plant for $80,000.

Consultants recommended that repairs and replacement be done immediately for safety concerns.

COMMUNITY TRAIL

Council committed to investing $27,784 to purchase the proper equipment that would enable efficient clearing of the Community Walking Trail.

Another initiative Council discussed was paving the Walking Trail from Blairmore to Frank, but this project was deferred to 2020. Another deferred project is creating a walking-only trail on the Pass Powderkeg Ski Hill from the base to the lodge.

FERAL CATS

The municipality has allocated $10,000 to initiate a trap-neuter-return (TNR) program in Crowsnest Pass.

In November 2018, Council heard a delegation from Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS), a non-profit animal rescue organization that partners with municipalities to enact TNR programs. The cost for the TNR program with AARCS is $90 for male cats and $150 for females, with a $50 surcharge for pregnant cats. Every step of the program - from the case study to the point of release and setting up a feeding are - is included in this price. At the time, AARCS was unable to provide an estimate as to how much this would cost in Crowsnest Pass as the quantity of feral cats is unknown.

See the Nov. 21 issue of the Pass Herald for more on the AARCS TNR program.

ASHPHALT REPAIRS

Council increased the budget for annual asphalt repairs by $40,000, bringing it from $160,000 in 2018 to $200,000. In regards to road repair, Council also approved $10,000 for a new spray patching product that has proven to be effective to patch cracked and damaged pavement and Main Street Blairmore sidewalk repair for $30,000. In recent years, this is the highest amount that the municipality is contributing towards road repair.

Councillor Lisa Sygutek expressed that in the next budget, she would like to see Council prioritize infrastructure upgrades and repairs as they are improvements that would benefit the entire community instead of funding individual groups.

WATER METRES

A major capital project on Council's agenda is installing water metres in the community, an initiative projected to cost $2,300,000. The municipality will have further discussion in 2019 as to how to finance the water metres.
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December 19th, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 51
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