Sunday, February 4, 2018

MD of Pincher Creek Council briefs for January, 2018

Jonathan Skrimshire

* Town of Pincher Creek recreation funding request
* Curling Club delegation seeks funding for new rink
* Revised site plan for proposed Pincher Creek curling rink
* Increased Pincher Creek Emergency Services levies
* Short term operating line of credit approved

Town of Pincher Creek recreation funding request

At their meeting of January 9, Council for the Municipal District of Pincher Creek addressed a letter from the Town of Pincher Creek requesting funding for recreational facilities. The letter included a restatement of capital funding requests considered and declined by the previous MD Council in September 2017, and a request for increased operational funding.

The Town is seeking $712,500 in immediate capital funding towards the spray park and pool slide projects, currently approaching completion, and future capital funding for a curling rink, sports fields, and a number of smaller projects. In addition, the Town is requesting that the MD consider funding 50% of the Town's recreation operating budget.

For the benefit of the new Councillors, Wendy Kay, Chief Administrative Officer, explained the previous Council's decision. "This was discussed during 2018 budget discussions. We increased the capital portion [of the MD's per capita funding formula] but not the operating", she said. "At this point the budget is set for 2018."

Councillor Brian Hammond expressed a desire to have discussions with his Council colleagues regarding how the Town's funding requests relate to the MD's budget and spending priorities before making any commitments. "To me this is not an open and shut case", he said.

Councillor Terry Yagos was opposed to revisiting the 2018 budget to accommodate the Town. "For me this is a 2019 budget item", he said. Councillor Bev Everts was more open to considering the matter. "I wouldn't go so far as to say 2019", she said. "It seems to me that we should be having this dialogue prior to preparation for the 2019 budget."

Council broached the idea of a Joint Council meeting to address the Town's request. Yagos felt the MD's needs should also be on the table. "I would suggest we also make up a list like this ourselves of what projects we want for the MD", he said.

Reeve Quentin Stevick favoured the idea of a joint meeting to address and prioritize capital projects across the Town and region. "I would really like the opportunity to have a meeting with the Town and the Council [...] I would like to be able to sit down and go through their asks, our asks, and try to come up with some ideas that will work down the road", he said. "We have our budget in place, and their ask right now is just under 2.7 [million dollars] so I think this should be [...] moved forward to when we can discuss this in length with the Town in a manner that we can come to some agreement."

Council's discussion of the Town's request concluded with the passage of the following motion: "That the letter from the Town of Pincher Creek, dated December 13, 2017, regarding the 2017 Project Funding Requests, be received; And that a Joint Council Meeting be scheduled with the Town of Pincher Creek to further discuss the Town of Pincher Creek’s 2017 Project Funding requests; And that this request be deferred to 2019 Budget discussions."

Curling Club delegation seeks funding for new rink

At their meeting of January 23, Council received a delegation from the Pincher Creek Curling Club. Debbie Reed, Fundraising Chairperson, presented the Club's request for funding towards the construction of a new curling rink in Pincher Creek.

Reed presented arguments for the health and social benefits of curling as an activity that can be enjoyed by young and old alike, indicating that in recent years the Club has seen increased levels of use by seniors and students from local schools. She stated that their organization "is a viable self-sufficient club" but that they are unable to finance replacement of their aging facility on their own, and expressed a degree of frustration with the failure of previous Councils to commit funding to the project.

"If this Council is in favour of building a strong community and providing opportunity for physical activities for citizens of all ages, then you should support a new curling rink", Reed said. "I have asked this before, and I ask again, that you match the Town's contribution of $1.25-million", she said, concluding "As a new Council I hope that you can see the benefit to your community, help find a way to fund this project, and continue to build our community and keep curling in Pincher Creek."

Following Reed's presentation, several Councillors sought clarification of grant funding and how it might affect the request to the MD. "We have applied for the $1-million Community Facilities Enhancement Program grant, and if we are successful with that then the [MD's] share [of capital funding] would be $750,000", she said.

Council will respond to the Curling Club's funding request at their meeting of February 13.

Revised site plan for proposed Pincher Creek curling rink

Councillor Rick Lemire presented to Council the revised site plan for the proposed curling rink approved by the Pincher Creek Facilities Planning Steering Committee at their meeting of January 15. "I think this is the plan that we're going to move ahead with", said Lemire. "This seems to be the final drawing after the recommendation from the facilities group."

The revised site plan envisions the rink structure located on Robertson Avenue, in the northeast corner of the Multi-Purpose Facility grounds. The plan illustrates a four or optionally six sheet rink. Lemire indicated that it is "highly recommended to go with six [sheets]. Then we can conduct bigger bonspiels and bigger provincial curling events."

A brief discussion ensued, with Councillors again requesting clarification of the exact funding ask being made of the MD. "I was confused about the funding request", said Everts. "Today we heard $1.25-million, or with the [CFEP] grant $750,000." "If they get the [CFEP] grant it would knock it down to 750 [thousand dollars] and it could go down from there with other federal grants", Lemire replied.

Kay indicated that time would be allocated on Council's February 13 agenda for review and comment on the plan. "I would urge fellow Council members to take this and review it and come back with any questions you may have", Lemire concluded.

Increased Pincher Creek Emergency Services levies

Director of Finance Janene Felker apprised Council of substantial increases in Pincher Creek Emergency Services levies. Her written submission to Council indicated the Emergency Services Commission had approved a 2018 operating levy of $360,808, an increase of 17% from 2017, and a capital levy of $164,969, an increase of 28%. She also indicated that the 2018 MD budget had earmarked $130,000 from the mill rate stabilization reserve to fund the capital levy, and requested guidance from Council on how to proceed, given the substantially increased amounts set by the Commission.

"We receive two requisitions from Pincher Creek Emergency Services. One is the operating levy", said Felker. "Normally we collect the operating levy on the tax notice by a separate mill rate", she said, referring to the three separate tax notice line items for schools, the Pincher Creek Foundation and Emergency Services.

"The capital levy was new in 2017, so this is the second year that the MD has received the capital levy", Felker continued. "We only collect the operating portion right now on the tax notice", she explained, indicating that "right now, we [the MD] are funding the capital levy. We are using our reserves."

The question put to Council was how to address the Emergency Services capital levy going forward: whether to include the capital request directly in the Emergency Services sum presented to taxpayers on their tax notices, or to fund some or all of the capital levy through the MD's mill rate stabilization reserve. "We just have to pay the Commission", said Kay. "How we get that money is up to this table."

Yagos was strongly opposed to using the MD's reserves to cover the capital levy. "We are using our ratepayers' money to subsidize the Commission. And that is wrong", he said. "We have no control over what [levy] the Commission sets."

"I don't understand your use of the term subsidy", said Hammond. "We have the authority and the responsibility to decide how we're going to meet that levy. We can decide to pass it [all] along to the mill rate bylaw, or we can get some of it from the mill rate bylaw and get the rest of it from the stabilization fund."

"We shouldn't be doing that", Yagos replied. "We don't do that for education or the [Pincher Creek] Foundation. They send us their request and we act as tax collectors", he continued. "We've got to get it into our heads that the Commission is independent [...] We just collect their levy for them." He emphasized that residents need to be aware that Council is not accountable for the Commission's decisions. "It's up to the Commission to set a budget that the ratepayers will accept", he said.

After a lengthy back and forth, during which there was substantial disagreement as to how best to proceed, Felker was asked to explain her understanding of the purpose of the mill rate stabilization reserve. "I think the mill rate stabilization reserve was funded for two purposes: first is to limit the fluctuations annually in the mill rate and second is to cover one-time one-off expenses", she said. "When I think of mill rate stabilization, I think of the municipal mill rate. I don't necessarily think of the school mill rate, the Pincher Creek Foundation mill rate, or the Pincher Creek Emergency Services mill rate."

Yagos continued to press the issue, objecting both in principle and on practical grounds. "This is going to be a tough year when we set the tax notice", he said. "We are probably looking at much more than three percent [increase] just to do what we've already budgeted. So let's use the mill rate stabilization [reserve] to keep our own rate down. Not somebody else's." Felker appeared to be in agreement regarding prospects for the forthcoming tax notice. "I think we're going to have to use the mill rate stabilization for the municipal mill rate this year - unless we want taxes to be huge", she said.

Council's discussion of the matter concluded with the passage of the following motion, which will result in the two increased EMS levies being presented directly to ratepayers via a single tax notice line item: "That the report from the Director of Finance, dated January 12, 2018, regarding the 2018 Levies for Pincher Creek Emergency Services Commission be received; And that the total of the 2018 operating and capital levies of $525,778.07 be included in the 2018 mill rate bylaw."

Short term operating line of credit approved

At their meeting of January 23, Council approved a borrowing bylaw to create a short term line of credit to cover cash flow contingencies resulting from the difference between the start date of the MD's budget year and the time at which annual taxes are collected.

"Last year, even though we had the bylaw in place, we never used the [line of credit]. And we don't pay for it if we don't [use it]", said Felker. "This year we might need it, just because all the requisitions are requiring quarter one and quarter two payments. So that [money] will go out before we start collecting taxes."

The line of credit, which authorizes borrowing of up to $5-million, will be negotiated with CIBC and will be in place for the period February 1 through June 30, 2018.

Related articles

Funding shortfall threatens Pincher Creek recreation projects

Pincher Creek Town Council briefs for January 22, 2018 

Revised Pincher Creek curling rink site plan drawing released

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