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Posted on: February 1, 2021

Banff Town Council reduces budget below pre-pandemic level

Service Review

Banff Town Council has finalized the budget for all municipal services, programs and infrastructure projects to be delivered in 2021.

In order to reduce the cost impact to taxpayers during the economic challenges caused by the pandemic, the Town reduced the overall tax levy from pre-pandemic levels by 5.59%. This follows the effort last year, when council cut the tax levy by 17% compared to the 2019 budget.

“Banff Town Council passed a cautious and responsible budget for a year that presents considerable uncertainty as the COVID pandemic continues to affect our community. We reduced tax contributions to our reserve funds, implemented reductions in overall wages, including a freeze on Council pay, and deferred a number of capital projects,” said Mayor Sorensen. “At the same time, our budget plan maintains healthy reserves for future years, and we have the flexibility to meet an increase in service demands in 2021 to provide the level of services that Banff residents expect.”

The budget sets the level of services used every day by residents, including waste management, water and sewer services, roads and sidewalk maintenance, snow control, recreation and social support programs, fire and police protection, parks and trails maintenance, development and business services, transit and bylaw enforcement.

Compared to the pre-pandemic year, the 2021 budget will result in a reduction in the annual municipal property tax bill by about $130 for an average homeowner in Banff, with a property assessed at $462,900.

Property taxes set in spring

The final tax rate is set in spring, after the Government of Alberta invoices the Town for provincial education taxes, which the municipality collects for the province.

The budget maintains levels of services for residents where the programs can be provided during the pandemic. Some municipal services forecast a drop in service levels or revenue – such as transit, recreation centre activities and programs, and commercial garbage removal – due to restrictions or decreased activity while the pandemic continues to affect the tourism economy. The budget reduced overall wages and benefits by $150,000 and cut training budgets in future years.

New projects in 2021

Council approved several new projects in the operating budget, including:

  • Implementing a visitor-pay parking program and a resident parking permit system in May
  • Starting a process to develop an Indigenous relations framework
  • Implementing a Banff Avenue Pedestrian Zone in the summer

Banff Town Council established a reserve fund for revenue from the new pay-parking program, rather than funds going into general operations. Council will determine at a later meeting how the net revenue will be used after covering costs for the infrastructure, administration and enforcement.

Although some infrastructure projects were deferred to future years, several long-planned capital investments will proceed in 2021, including:

  • Banff Avenue Housing Complex (The Aster)
  • St. Julien Road reconstruction and enhancement
  • Transit Storage Facility completion and an additional electric bus
  • Landscaping enhancements to the Library entrance
  • Road resurfacing and sidewalk improvements, and the addition of a sidewalk on Moose Street
  • Recreation Grounds upgrades
  • Development of designs for a Pedestrian Bridge at Central Park
  • Additional trail lighting and trail repair
  • Additional neighbourhood recycling and organic waste bins

The 2021 operating budget represents a 5.59 decrease in tax levy from 2019. The approved budget is a decrease of 12.6% from the 2021 budget proposed in the three-year plan approved in 2019. However, the new 2021 budget represents a 13% increase from the 2020 amended COVID operating budget. 

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