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Banff agrees to fund seniors' housing

Banff residents and businesses will soon be on the hook for more money – but it’s all in the name of looking after the Bow Valley’s vulnerable seniors’ population.

Banff residents and businesses will soon be on the hook for more money – but it’s all in the name of looking after the Bow Valley’s vulnerable seniors’ population.

On Monday (June 13), Banff town council unanimously passed a motion pledging financial support for the planned $19.3 million expansion of Bow River Lodge in Canmore.

Specifically, it’s for Banff’s share of any future operating deficit and debt servicing costs that come from building a proposed 61 new units there to create an “aging in place” facility.

Councillor Leslie Taylor was quick to voice her support.

While it looks like the expansion will lead to a 1.21 per cent overall increase on the tax bill in the short-term for Banff, she said it is essential this project move forward.

“I’m happy to see we’re attempting to predict demands before coming to a crisis,” she said.

Councillor Stavros Karlos said while he is concerned about the costs to Banff’s residents and businesses, he believes this is the only choice to make.

“I’ve asked myself if this is the right thing to do. And, given the situation of seniors presently and into the future, this is the right thing to do,” he said.

Karlos did, however, encourage Bow Valley Regional Housing (BVRH) to meet with Alberta Health Services (AHS) to negotiate for vacant lots on Banff Avenue for increased housing.

“I do respectfully request Bow Valley Regional Housing look into AHS lands on Banff Avenue,” he said. “They’ve been empty for a very, very long time. And maybe you can have success where no one else ever has.”

A lack of suitable accommodation is forcing seniors to live with relatives who are ill-equipped to meet their needs, live on their own in isolation and at risk, or leave the community to find appropriate housing.

The redevelopment proposed by BVRH at Bow River Lodge would include a mix of both renovation and new construction, at a projected capital cost of $19.3 million.

It’s the first step in BVRH’s plan to deal with an existing and growing deficit in supportive living housing as the Bow Valley’s population continues to age.

If it moves ahead, the expansion aims to serve all levels of needs in a campus of care. That would also allow for the needs of residents that have to change levels of care to be easily met.

BVRH levies its own taxes, but the Town of Banff likes to keep track of the effect on the total bill going out – broken down into property taxes, provincial education taxes and BVRH levy.

For Banff, the expansion will result in an overall increase to the BVRH levy of $238,000.

Based on the 2011 mill rate, this would result in an overall increase on the tax bill of 1.21 per cent for taxpayers in the short-term. But, in 2014, the previous loans for BVRH will be fulfilled and the levy will reduce by $110,000 to partially offset some of the increase.

Kelly Gibson, Banff’s corporate services manager, said the municipality does have the debt limit and servicing capacity to take on the debt.

“Based on the 2010 audited financial statements, if this borrow was initiated we would have $15,277,000 of unused debt limit and $3,580,000 of unused debt servicing available,” he said.

“The percentage of loan allocation is tied to the Town’s percentage of overall BVRH levy, which is currently at a 10-year low due to a declining equalized assessment.”

Canmore council is expected to discuss the issue next Tuesday (June 21). The Kananaskis Improvement District and ID#9 in Banff National Park are also being asked for support.

The MD of Bighorn, meanwhile, signified its support during the June meeting of Council by signing off on a letter, written by Reeve Dene Cooper, to Mary Anne Jablonski, Minister of Seniors and Community Support promising to provide its financial support for future operating and debt servicing costs.

However, according to the letter, as the MD is not in position to provide its share – $882,000 – up front or through borrowing, the BVRH will have to instead borrow the necessary funds for the MD’s shares of the capital costs and in turn requisition the debt servicing costs from the municipality’s assessment base.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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