CANMORE – Canmore’s elected officials spent more than 20 hours deliberating over the 2019-20 operational and capital budgets for the municipality in November and reached a final property tax increase of 4.9 per cent as a result of their efforts.
The budget is the first one council has been able to make its mark on, having been elected in October 2018 and over the past year setting its strategic priorities to guide the process.
But as general manager Michael Fark told the finance committee in November, “every priority comes with a cost.”
The result is a $52 million operating and $17 million capital budget for 2019, with new focus on goals of environmental sustainability and wildlife coexistence. Other priorities include the creation of a new downtown enhancement plan, and continued work on affordability and the availability of housing in the community.
“We took pretty much all of these plans and we looked at what are the goals and objectives,” Fark said. “If we were to deliver on these, what would it look like and what it would look like is far more than we could afford.”
During the final finance committee meeting, councillors and the mayor worked on finalizing a municipal property tax increase that ended up being 4.9 per cent.
Chief Administrative Officer Lisa de Soto went through the process to reach the recommended budget, including the addition of several full-time position requests from administration totalling $617,000 in 2019.
But de Soto informed council that as a result of updated information from both recreation and bylaw services departments, there were additional expected revenues that could be incorporated into the budget.
“Our membership revenue (at Elevation Place) is trending quite high,” she said. “It is $160,000 higher than budgeted year-to-date today and we believe with the trends we have increased revenues slightly in 2019-20 based (on that) evaluation.”
That means an additional $100,000 from recreation for the 2019 budget and the higher fine revenues from the bylaw area also saw $30,000 increase on the books.
The additional revenue, however, didn’t necessarily result in a lower tax increase. Council heard another recommendation to move an $80,000 executive administrative support position to the 2019 budget, as well as a reduction in the amount of Fortis franchise fees used to support the operational budget. Council previously directed administration to use franchise fees to lower the originally proposed 6.6 per cent municipal tax increase to 4.6 per cent.
Mayor John Borrowman supported the changes, saying currently one administrative assistant position provides support for the entire corporate management team and council.
“I have 100 per cent confidence in the information brought to the table,” he said.
The mayor also said when people get hung up on the tax increase amounts, they often fail to realize the actual dollar values and Canmore’s municipal tax rates are favourable when compared to other communities in the province.
The 4.9 per cent increase would equate to $11.59 a year per $100,000 of assessed value for a property. A $600,000 home, for example, would see a $104 increase year over year, or $8.63 a month.
Council votes officially on Tuesday (Dec.18) to approve both the capital and operating budgets.