St. Albert Art Gallery tour: Councillor Watkins & I attended a tour of the newest exhibit at the art gallery - this is a regular exhibit in partnership with St. Albert high schools. I was impressed!
International Migratory Bird Day at Lois Hole Park, hosted by Big Lake Environment Support Society (BLESS): BLESS outdid themselves again, with another wonderful family event. My kids loved petting the northern saw-whet owl and peregrine falcon, checking out all the animal sculls and pelts, and learning about local conservation effots.
School Board Reciprocal Use Agreement Amendments
We are updating the agreement that gives St. Albert schools access to St. Albert facilities, and not-for-profit groups access to school facilities.
Tax rate bylaw
This makes the 2018 tax rate official. On average, residential properties will see a 1.6% increase in municipal taxes, which includes fees that we don't control, including:
- an Education Requisition ($32.4M for Alberta Education - note that which school affiliation you chose for your property taxes has no impact on how much money a particular school receives),
- a Homeland Housing Foundation Requisition for supportive living for seniors and community affordable housing. ($1.1M - I sit on the Homeland Housing Board with our partners in Morinville, Sturgeon County, Legal, Westlock, and others in the north-central region. This is a non-profit provincially-mandated management board.)
Fun graph from Admin's report showing that an average residential home will see:
- An increased assessment value (↑ 0.7%)
- An increased municipal levy, which is what the city requires to operate based on the budget/service levels approved by Council (↑ 1.5%)
- A decreased Servus Place levy (↓ 2.5% - This levy expires in 2024.)
- An increased Education levy (↑ 2.3%)
- A decreased Homeland Housing levy (↓ 2.1%)
- A municipal tax increase of $72 (↑ 1.6%)
Motion - Delivering Utility Services
If passed, this would allow Administration to explore developping "a for-profit entity... in which the City of St. Albert would be the sole shareholder. Dividends... would be utilized... as a new source of revenue to fund capital projects, and/or adjust taxes and services and service levels as desired..." This could include "water distribution, wastewater collection, new wastewater treatment opportunities, solid waste collections and life cycle management... such as heat and electricity generation and distribution..."
Administration notes that: "A corporation has the potential ability to be more responsive to innovation, development, and business opportunities and partnerships, to adopt a lower cost structure and to more rapidly undertake initiatives to generate profit, which in turn generates shareholder value." This is consistant with the results seen in Edmonton, Medicine Hat, and many other municipalities in Alberta.
Admin is recommending that, should we move forward, $75-100k is allocated for a a feasibility and cost-benefit financial review, including "an external independent third party financial review... <and> a feasibility study... by internal staff, with possible advice from an external technical consultant to build on the Zero Waste Feasibility Study integrating these results into the utility corporation modelling..."
Motion - Monthly Utility Billing & e-billing
If passed, these motions will change the billing schedule for utilities (water, wastewater, waste) from bi-monthly to monthly by July 2019, that "all new utility customers... are provided their utility bills via email", and that "if a mailed paper copy is requested... the price of printing and postage be added to the bill."
Although there is no specific fee mentioned in the original motion, this was one of the options proposed: "Industry Average – In 2013 the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television andTelecommunications Commission) released a report titled “Results of the fact-findingexercise on fees for paper bills” specific to communications companies. The resultsshowed that for those charging for paper bills the fees ranged from $1-$4 or more per bill with most charging $2/bill."
We've often heard that bi-monthly billing creates difficulties for those on tight monthly budgets; the first part of this motion would address these concerns.
We've also committed to addressing the environmental and administrative costs of delivering services; The second parts of this motion would provide incentives for residents to sign up for e-billing and address the cost of delivering a service. (Despite being computer-literate and preferring e-services, I didn't take the time to register for online billing until very recently. I suspect many of those who haven't signed up are in the same boat that I was, and just haven't made e-billing registration a priority. Register for online Utility/Business & dog licence/assessment & tax records now!)
This is a brief high-level overview of highlights from our meeting agenda, with my personal comments sprinkled in - In no way are my opinions representative of the official direction of council or the City of St. Albert. Please let me know of any typos or errors. As always, I also encourage everyone who is able to tune in the the live-stream of the meeting (3pm here) or attend in-person (3rd floor of St. Albert Place, hang a right getting out of the elevator). You can also register to speak if you have information to present to council. Full agenda packages can be found on the stalbert.ca website.