The Town of Banff has published the 2023 Service Review documents to solicit feedback and kick off the annual Council deliberations with a review of all municipal services and the levels of service, an examination of cost increases, and potential new projects or program enhancements.
The Service Review documents lay out each municipal department’s services that residents and visitors rely on every day – from road and sidewalk maintenance to public transit, from police and fire protection to parks and recreation, and from community and social services to water, sewer and garbage/recycling/composting services. Key projects will be reviewed, such as the Downtown Pedestrian Zone and the Visitor Pay Parking Program rates. The documents also detail revenue estimates and the cost to deliver all services and programs, and is followed by Council setting the 2023 budget.
Banff residents are invited to review the Service Review documents and provide feedback for Council consideration. People can provide input in two ways: by submitting an email to the Municipal Clerk identifying the topic or service and their suggestions, or by registering to speak directly to Council on a specific topic on the date assigned for the topic area. Budget documents, the schedule of topic dates and directions for submitting input are available at banff.ca/ServiceReview.
The draft budget focuses on maintaining the services that residents need and expect, while addressing inflation and rebuilding revenue sources to pre-pandemic levels.
“The 2023 Service Review will balance the needs and aspirations of Banffites with the economic realities of our pandemic recovery,” said Kelly Gibson, Town Manager. “We understand the inflationary pressures affecting everyone, and we have worked hard to keep taxes as affordable as possible. The fact is, providing 2022’s level of services will cost more in 2023 because the municipality is facing similar inflationary impacts as residents.”
“In 2022, Banff’s economy showed faster and stronger recovery than we expected, and we are in a position to rebuild to a more sustainable financial position by reversing the deep cuts we made in 2020 when the pandemic struck. We will continue to maintain a cautious financial strategy due to economic uncertainty in 2023, and building back our reserves will be important for future financial resilience.”
The Town cut municipal property taxes by 17% in 2020 to reduce the impact on residents and businesses affected by the COVID crisis. Most reductions were managed by reducing staff hours, holding back wage increases below the level of inflation, and cutting transfers to reserves that fund future programs, such as infrastructure maintenance.
“Banff’s economy was affected more than other communities and we responded quickly and aggressively at the outset of the pandemic to reduce budgets in ways that protected resident services,” said Chris Hughes, Director of Corporate Services for the Town. “Those financial strategies were effective and Banff is in good financial shape going into next year, but we need to build back our reserves to avoid deficits and bring back our staff wages to competitive levels. If we did not cut taxes by 17% in 2020, and instead increased municipal taxes each year by 1.9% – which is below average inflation for each of the four years – we would arrive at the same level of taxation we are proposing in the 2023 draft budget. To be clear, we are enhancing services and programs, while keeping taxes below inflationary increases.”
The starting point for the draft 2023 budget would see municipal property taxes increase by 7.8% over pre-COVID 2019 taxes. This equates to a 10.26% increase from 2022 municipal taxation. The increase is composed of 5.4% from inflationary costs, plus almost 4.9% for previously approved projects such as an additional police position, operating impacts of capital, and about $660,000 from taxes to increase staff wages to fully account for inflation. About $159,000 would also be required from utility fees for the proposed wage adjustment.
This starting point of a 10.26% property tax increase over 2022 represents an increase of about $9.70 per month for a typical residential property assessed at $467,100. This estimate is only for the municipal portion; the invoice for the provincial property tax for education is sent to the Town in spring. The final property tax rate for each class will depend on what Council sets for the total amount of taxes collected from commercial properties and the total amount from residential properties.
The draft budget does not contain any new major construction projects in 2023, like the previous years’ pedestrian bridge, St. Julien Road or Bear Street redevelopments. Council will examine proposed new projects that were identified earlier in the year for budget consideration, and projects that may help achieve their strategic priorities for the community in areas such as affordability, sustainable transportation, environmental leadership and critical partnerships.
The budget documents include potential projects and program enhancements identified through the year that Council will debate during the service review. Possible 2023 projects include:
- Adding another position for RCMP
- Doubling the value of grants to community groups
- Adding bicycle racks downtown
- Completing an energy efficiency retrofit for the Fire Hall
- The Downtown Pedestrian Zone
- Adding more buses on weekends and evenings on Roam Transit’s Canmore-Banff service
- Starting design work on a Mountain Avenue express bus lane towards downtown (for construction in 2024)
- Adding two electric vehicles for municipal parks services
- Starting design on a new intersection and road redevelopment on Caribou Street at Lynx (for construction in 2025)
- Continuing work on the Recreation Grounds renewal, such as an expanded adventure playground, new bike pump track/skills park, and skating rink
There are a total of 37 new projects or program enhancements for Council consideration. They represent a maximum operating impact of about $1.2 million in 2023. An increase in the operating tax-supported budget of $202,300 equates to an increase in the municipal property tax levy of 1%.
2023 Budget Facts and Figures
Total Expenditures & Sources of Funding
- Total proposed 2023 Expenditures: $56.8 million
- Property Taxes: 38%
- Utility Fees: 21%
- Sales of Goods and Services: 10%
- Business Licenses: 10%
- Grants: 8%
- Visitor Pay Parking: 5%
- Other sources (permits, fees, fines, rentals, etc.) – 8%
4-Year Total Tax Trend
- 2019 to 2023 Municipal Property Tax increase: 7.8%
- This equates to a 1.9% annual property tax increase, compounded
- The average annual inflation was 2.7% annually over the same period (Alberta Consumer Price Index)
- Total debt will be $18,732,682 by the end of 2022
- This is 23% of our Total Debt Limit
- 2023 Debt Servicing will be $5,587,866
- This is 41% of our Debt Service Limit (This % will decline quickly with the repayment of Bear St and Aster Loans in 2023)
- At the end of 2023, the only remaining tax-supported debt is on the Fenlands loan from FCM, now at $816,000 remaining in the capital
- Interest rate for current municipal debt financing is fixed at far below consumer rates, at an average of 2.1%
- Sources of Debt Repayment:
- Rent: 67%
- The Aster condo sales: 20%
- Property Taxes: 7%
- Utility Fees: 6%
- Annual reduction to pre-covid General Capital Reserve Funding:
- 2020 - $1,903,234
- 2021 - $1,665,200
- 2022 - $1,453,500
- 2023 - $1,453,500
- 2024 - $969,000
- 2025 - $484,500
- Total - $7,928,934
- The Town’s total Capital Reserves are forecasted to be in a deficit position at the end of 2023 due to the cuts to transfers to reserves in 2020 and 2021 to protect expenditures on resident services. Reserves will return to positive position in 2024 due to a rebuilding of annual transfers.
Banff Town Council submits questions about departments on November 21 for answers from administration published on November 25. The starting point for 2023 operating and capital budgets will be presented to Council on November 30.
Banffites have an opportunity to speak at a non-statutory public input section of each meeting, if presenting on the topic or service for the designated day. The full schedule is at banff.ca/ServiceReview. Residents may also submit input by email before the start of the service review process by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Budget deliberation is expected to continue into January 2023 before the final budget is set.