“This is a business. Be smart. Choose wisely.” John Aniston
In August of 2019 the Fraser Institute published their Taxes Versus the Necessities of Life: The Canadian Consumer Tax Index (2019). This index tracks the total tax bill for the average Canadian family and has been calculated since 1961. The fantastic and positive news is that Canadians now pay more in taxes every year than we spend on the necessities of life including food, shelter and clothing combined.
On the 28th of October 2019 MNP Ltd. delivered a very cheery report just in time for Halloween. The MNP Consumer Debt Index indicated that 48% of Canadians have less than $200.00 at the end of the month after paying their obligations. That is up 4 points and includes 3 in 10 who already don’t make enough money to cover all their bills and debt obligations.
Here are the MNP Ltd. specifics for Alberta:
Calgary, AB –October 28, 2019 – Despite the Bank of Canada stating it will keep interest rates stable until next year, 6 in 10 (58%) Albertans say they are more concerned about their ability to repay their debts than they used to be. This could be the result of steeply declining wiggle room in household budgets. After paying all their current bills and debt obligations, Albertans say they have, on average, $459 left at the end of the month — a drop of $209 since June and the lowest level since tracking began in February 2016. Half (49%, +5 pts) say they’re left with less than $200; including 3 in 10 (34%) who say they already don’t make enough money to cover all their bills and debt obligations.
Based on these two studies, let’s do some fun and exciting math to help frame this up for our little town.
- On average we are paying more in taxes than we are paying for food shelter and clothing (water, sewer, recycle and garbage bills not included).
- Turner Valley has approximately 1000 households.
- 490 of those households have less than $200 left after paying their bills (water, sewer, recycle and garbage bills included here) and debt obligations.
- 340 of those 490 already don’t make enough to cover all their bills and debt obligations.
Now, to add some colour to this lovely picture with some local anecdotal evidence.
- More people than ever are relying on the Turner Valley Food Bank for food. First time users are up 36%. The total hampers are up 13% as of Sept 30, 2019. (Shameless plug – Support the food bank if you can afford to. Glenn Chambers has done incredible work there.)
- Speaking with a realtor he noted that houses that were sold in 2011 are now listed at a similar price. So, this means declining house values for Turner Valley.
- This realtor noted that he is getting more calls to evaluate family homes that are headed to foreclosure than ever before in his experience.
- Businesses are struggling or closing their doors.
- One subscription-based business indicated that he is seeing significant declines in his monthly revenue due to one or both earners being unemployed or underemployed and simply no longer being able to afford his services.
Ending #1 – The Obvious
Council and Administration think Turner Valley Rate Payers Board (TVRPB) is always negative about how our town is operated. Consequently, I am going to give this article a happy ending.
490 households still have $200.00 dollars that
you can take from them they can contribute to the town in taxes and fees to “build” our vanity projects and administration staff bank accounts community. Removing this money from residents will save families the anxiety of wondering if they should add that $200.00 to their Tax-Free Savings accounts, RRSP’s or perhaps drop it in their RESP’s for their children’s education. Families won’t be forced to decide if they should pay down their mortgage or pay off credit cards or lines of credit. Families won’t feel anxiety as they contemplate which local business they can visit to spend their meager disposable income. Families will be able to live stress free knowing that the Town of Turner Valley, during a major recession, will be adding $100,000.00 worth of pathways and parks and $75,000 for sidewalks on streets that have never had sidewalks in the history of the town. Residents need not worry about that $175,000.00 from reserves being used to reduce their monthly bills for water and sewer in some sort of utility stabilization scheme. Families will be able to relax, knowing that our 30 or so town staff are increasingly well compensated, receiving taxpayer funded additions to their RRSP’s and the best health and dental benefits money can buy. Council will be proud that their administration and staff morale will be “higher than Bull Moose antler tips” while they mow the grass, plow snow off the pool parking lot for the 7th time each day and grouch at us about which bin to put our recycle in.
Be positive residents of Turner Valley! We have a crew of people leading our town administration who are building their resume’s by graciously driving here from other towns, like Okotoks and Calgary. They are only here to help remove the burden of what to do with our spare earnings, if you’re lucky enough to have any. You should be pleased that these good folks are building excellent resumes by doing projects with your money. They will all be able to view Turner Valley as a steppingstone on their way to bigger and better paying Municipalities. Be positive fellow residents of Turner Valley! These people in administration have done the hard work of golfing, eating steak dinners and drinking libations with firms that want to contract with the Town of Turner Valley. These good folks can gleefully defend the reasons why their newfound contractor friends should continue to receive lucrative, long-term contracts.
We are Canadians after all. We love to pay taxes more than we love to care for our family’s futures. Alberta may be in a severe recession, and still not at the bottom of this downturn, but you don’t need to worry about money. The Town or Turner Valley will do its part to make sure you don’t have any left to worry about.
Ending #2 The Encouraging
The Alberta Government is showing the path that all of Alberta should take. Reduce spending, reduce staff, postpone projects that are not of immediate and emergent need. Fund only the projects that are required for building and supporting business and get Albertans back to work in the private sector where wealth is generated, not in government where wealth is only consumed.
The Turner Valley Rate Payers Board is hopeful that council will make the right choices and be the leaders for Turner Valley’s households and businesses, that are clearly and obviously in need of some respite from the ongoing march of Municipal costs. Starting with a 2% reduction in wages, a 20% reduction in health, dental and other benefits premiums. A complete removal of any and all matching retirement or savings programs for all employees. Council can and should rescind their Capital Budget, considering the Alberta Budget, and reduce all capital projects to $0 for 2020 and 2021.
Ending #3 The Fantasy
The Turner Valley Rate Payers Board would like to congratulate Mayor Notable and the 4 Councillors who voted in favour of families and residents keeping more of their hard-earned money during these difficult times. As economic conditions in Alberta continue to deteriorate, families can be confident that a majority of the Turner Valley Town Council cares about each one of them. The Turner Valley Town Council with the support of the CAO Course has voted overwhelmingly to reduce staff from 30 to 19 Full Time Equivalents. Mr. Course has committed to maintain the highest service levels for residents and ask all his remaining staff to seek efficiencies in every corner of the municipality. The Town will no longer provide services to the RCMP office and will encourage local businesses to bid on that contract for snow removal and grounds keeping. Mayor Notable said “It is not right for municipal staff and equipment to compete with local businesses. If we want to prosper, we need to move away from the idea that bigger government is better. We need businesses to grow and provide efficient and competitive services.”
The Town of Turner Valley will no longer have a full-time planner and support staff. We will, instead, be contracting out planning service on an as needed basis to the Black Diamond planning department. This will reduce costs and facilitate the inevitable amalgamation of these towns. “Although we recently hired a full time Project Manager, we will be letting him go. We thank him for his efforts for the town, but due to a reduced number of projects we will no longer need his services. We learned that, while it may be a lower cost per hour to have a staff person it is more efficient to have a project manager on an as need basis. This allows the Town of Turner Valley to contract short term people with specific skills rather than trying to have a “jack-of-all-trades” approach.” said Mr. Course. The Turner Valley Rate Payers Board is confident that this approach will reduce immediate costs and improve efficiency. It also means that there is less pressure on administration to spend money in order to keep staff busy and pad resumes.
Due to ongoing inefficiencies in the entire recycle system across the planet, the Recycle Centre will be privatized. Mayor Notable and most of council are adamant that it is more ethical to send trash and recyclables to the land fill until viable markets or local solutions can be found for the recyclable materials. Remember the best way to save the planet and your budget is to reduce first and reuse second. Recycle is the last option. The Town of Turner Valley has entered into a contract with a local business to provide recycle and composting services to residents. All compostable waste can be dropped off at the Recycle Centre or you can pay extra to the private provider for curb side pickup. Garbage collection will remain the same, but now has a joint municipal model including Okotoks, Black Diamond and Turner Valley. This will reduce cost and does not require us to spend more money on a new garbage truck.
Snow removal will no longer include trucking snow out of town. Residents will need to remove cars from the streets as directed. The snow will be windrowed on each side of the street and left until spring or the first good chinook. This is how most other communities, including Okotoks and High River, manage their snow removal and will come at substantial savings to residents. We are confident that our storm drains can handle the gradual runoff from snow melt. The water from melting snow is much slower than the rain downpours during summer months. “We ask residents and businesses alike to shovel their sidewalks or we will be happy to recommend a local private business, that can be hired, to help with snow removal this winter” said CAO Course . A list of contractors is available on the new and improved town website. Remember, everyone loves a snow angel.
The Town Council is aware that our town needs deep infrastructure upgrades to much of Sunset Boulevard. Unlike past Councils, we are actively allocating money for this project. After further review and in consultation with Engineering firms, other than, our contracted Engineering firm who has a pecuniary interest in pushing the project, we have determined that we can postpone this significant piece of work until at least 2024. Before any decision is made regarding this work, a full and public consultation will be held with the business, who will be affected by this upgrade. Council does not want to undo the work of the Foothills Tourism team or the businesses that are working to make Turner Valley a destination for visitors.
Mr. Course has put his team on notice that they are to facilitate businesses in every possible way. Business license fees have been entirely waived and building and sign permits for businesses have been streamlined so that approval is instant, if safety is reasonably maintained. Turner Valley is a town that wants businesses, including home-based entrepreneurs. We have a commitment from Mr. Course that he will seek locations outside of Turner Valley for all future expansions of town offices and maintenance facilities, in an effort to maximize what little commercial real estate we have in Turner Valley.
We congratulate Mayor Notable, CAO Course and all those involved in making these difficult but necessary decisions. We applaud your leadership and dedication to making our town a place where families can live, work, and afford to play during this difficult economic time.
To those employees who worked in Turner Valley we wish you all the best in your future endeavors. Should you decide to move to Turner Valley we encourage you to start a business and build on our local initiatives for prosperity. Turner Valley is a gateway to Kananaskis country, as well as a gateway to prosperity for our residents and businesses.