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Sept. 20, 2017

Since this election is about OUR City – which encompasses ALL of us, I would like to start with the topic of Communication.

COMMUNICATION

Creating innovative opportunities for the people of Chestermere to be heard is something I feel strongly about.  Creative, consistent, simplified and easy to access 2-way communication with our citizens is essential.  Busy lives trump time to attend civic events when it comes to the time allotted in a day so we need to maximize technology and find out what works best for our citizens and do better. Having council meetings in the evenings instead of during the daytime so that constituents don’t have to take time off from their place of employment might be a place to start.  Being responsive to citizen phone calls and following up to the end results of their concerns should not be something that is optional or inconsistent. Without our citizens we don’t have a City.  In essence THEY are the clients.  Common sense says that 20,000 minds are better than 7 and since great minds think differently – lets create an environment of inclusivity, sharing ideas and be stronger together.  I am committing to planning Town Hall’s like the large corporations hold still today except ours can be at the Recreation Centre and multiple times a year if needed to give our citizens a place to go and have real face time with our decision makers.  Keeping people informed is an integral part of keeping them part of the process in understanding where we are and deciding where we need to be.

Sept. 23, 2017

How can we pay less in taxes?

Did you know that our taxes have only actually gone up 2-3% which would align with the cost of living and population growth?

Did you know that if your property assessment went up then yes your taxes would have went up accordingly but if the value of your house stayed the same, so should have your taxes?

[Prove me wrong if you can because I got this info indirectly from City Hall]

So….. why were your/our taxes HIGHER??

Because the education tax is ADDED on to our bills.  And the last few years history of how it increased looks something like 53%, 8%, 8%, 12%, 12%.  Chestermere, for years was under an education tax protection umbrella that – once we grew to a certain size – the Province just released us from, with no notice (thus the 53%).

When you compound the interest increases – this doesn’t work out to a 93% education tax hike BUT rather to a 124% education tax hike.

Add that 12% (education) to your 3% (cost of living/pop. growth) and you get your 15% property tax increase.

Additionally, Chestermere’s non-residential rate has only increased 1.5% over 10 years going from 3% to 4.5%, leaving us the lowest out of all surrounding municipalities (the next ones are 11%, 14%, 16% and 26%).

In 2016 this ratio was 95.5/4.5%.

This all means that you/I are covering the 95.5 which is the residential portion and only 4.5 is being covered by non-residential.

An increase in the non-residential DID occur but nowhere near the amount we required for the appropriate offset.  Our Mayor and Council have already approved a development for new homes and are considering 3 other developments.  The more residential increases and the non-residential does not – equals the more we WILL pay in tax.

Do you know:

  • that non-residential properties pay double the tax that we do as residential
  • non-residential saves the City on amenity planning because they don’t require accommodations like parks/recreation the same way that a home with a family living in it would; and
  • non-residential rates for utilities are also much higher than residential

While our Mayor and Council have made attempts to expand this non-residential portion, they have not been successful to the degree that we need. At what point do we start asking “why”?

Why were they not successful to the degree we need?  Why are companies not seeking out Chestermere for setting up shop?  And whatever those answers are – let’s figure it out and turn it around.  If acting as our own developer is not the best use of our resources, then let’s get an increase in the professionals on board who do this everyday.  Let’s make it inviting for businesses to come here, offer them perks for a period of time – get creative – involve the community – but let’s put a stop to the residents of Chestermere funding everything.

Much discussion needs to occur around the following in order to accomplish expanding this non-residential portion:

  • how to best approach attracting industry, commercial, retail, creative industry (technology), etc..
  • where the best locations we can offer these companies really is
  • how can we market Chestermere in a way that is effective and will heed results
  • what types of businesses would benefit from our assets (close to Calgary, highways, airport, etc..) and our natural resources (lake, geographically flat land which makes for easy building, etc..)

We have been left many ideas on the above from current Council that are presented in the 2017-2020 Economic Development Plan (which you can find online on the city’s website) which at least gives the new council a place to start.

 

My Meeting with Leigh-Anne Palter – our CEO of CUI

October 4, 2017

Do I think CUI is where it needs to be? No, personally I don’t.

I think it has MUCH room to develop into what we need.

Do I think it is the right way to approach all that it handles for the city?

Yes I do, with a qualifier that I am of the opinion that the City Council should revert back to playing a bigger role in it and its operations and overall structure and expenses

 

But that is just my personal opinion – what matters to me is what our City’s Residents want to see happen – once they are informed on the whole picture and can make a more informed decision on that ‘want’.

 

Meeting with CUI executive, Leigh-Anne Palter was informative to me, as a researcher and a resident.

Meeting with our CEO was an invitation she took the initiative to extend to all candidates and one that only a few took her up on. I had never met Leigh-Anne before. I had a list of questions and she answered them all and more.  This is a brief summary of my notes from that meeting and I am simply sharing them.

If you are not a reader and what the top few things are as to why we are where we are with CUI – in my ‘not–yet–finished–research’ I would say:  Because historically the planning for our City did not provide a slush fund for future repairs, historically for quite some time it appears we were being under-charged (thus not having any extra money to put away for the future) and NOW we are putting away for the future and NOW we are charging people properly (albeit TOO much of a financial challenge right now) and NOW we are bringing lift stations to government standards and NOW …. well that’s more than a few things… so here goes the ramble:

Did You Know:

  • Leigh-Anne’s FIRST day on the job at CUI, was the day we had a flood. Normally when running a utility corporation, one would have years to prepare, plan and put in place (including that of a slush fund) all that is possible to combat a disaster in a City’s forseeable future, however, she landed here to the flood which turned an approach of planning to one of demanding immediate attention. The flood revealed deficiencies and they had to be attended to.
  • In her short 2 years with Chestermere she has done everything possible to ensure our clean, safe drinking water was never jeopardized, even if that meant recommending rate increases that would bring public uproar and pushback.
  • We pay a separate rate tariff (like other municipalities that surround Calgary) but it is a municipal rate not a commercial rate. It is not the same rate that Calgary residents pay. This may be something we appeal to Calgary about, given our present challenges.
  • Leigh-Anne recently secured the renegotiation of the contract with EPCOR taking us from 9% interest to 3.25% which results in literally 7+ millions of dollars per year in savings. This negotiation went on for about a year.
  • That the absence of a long term storm water management solution means a continued threat to our future development. This is concerning and I need to do more research.
  • That all 12 of our lift stations (which are the stations the LIFT sewage to Calgary) were not compliant with government regulations. Getting them compliant means incurring costs of 20 million this year and 20 million next year.
  • That it is industry standard to operate at 60% debt and 40% equity.
  • The reason it looks like CUI makes a profit is because developer contributed assets and offsite levies are required to be reported as “revenue” on our IFRS compliant income statements. Developer Contributed Assets
  • The contributed assets are just that, assets; steel and plastic in the ground, not cash that we can use to pay for day to day operations.
  • This can have the result of distorting the understanding of CUI’s financial position.

Offsite Levies

The Offsite levies, while cash are restricted in their use and therefore also not available to support day to day operations. In 2016 we reported $5.7 million in assets and levies which contributed to a $1.4 m in net income.  However, if you take out those assets from the calculations, we actually experienced a loss of about $600,000 last year.  These figures are reported in our “Rate Base” results which are appended to the IFRS statements.

These statements are all available here on CUI’s website:

http://cuinc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/2016-Results-Release-Financial-Statements-and-Rate-Base-Results_.pdf

All of the above, made me ask: Who Governs Offsite Levies?

The Municipal Government Act is the overarching legislation to these Offsite levies.

They are established by municipal bylaw for specific infrastructure requirements in each community that are required to support growth. Once those levies are collected you can only use them for those specific projects.

The City of Chestermere OSL Bylaw can be found here: http://www.chestermere.ca/DocumentCenter/View/9275