Sunday, May 31, 2015

The History of Education in Beiseker

As you know, Beiseker Community School is celebrating 100 years of education in the village in a couple of weeks.  As a tribute to this milestone, I am doing a series of blogs on the history of education in this area.  This is the first.  I hope you enjoy looking back.

If you would like a more detailed history, go to the Beiseker Station Museum or the school itself.  Most of the information for my thumbnail history was taken from the Beiseker history book; Beiseker's Golden Heritage, published in 1977 and a few other books on Alberta's history.

Alberta became a province in 1905, and shortly thereafter settlers began pouring in to build new farming communities throughout the southern part of the new province.  In that first twenty years, Alberta's population grew and grew.  The Province started to urge the new communities to set up their own school districts, both in the new communities and in the rural areas.

Rural school districts were usually designed around a township or portions of one or more townships.  The school was built in the approximate center of the new school district on a corner of land a farmer donated or sold to the new district.  The position of the school was important.  It was supposed to be placed such that all the students could ride or walk to school easily, no more than three miles.  A barn was built on the school property to house the students' horses and a "teacherage" was constructed to house the teacher.

Some teachers lived in the basement of the school house itself;  that was more common in Northern Alberta.

School districts often got their names either from the farmer or colonization company who gave up the land, the first chairman of the new district, or the name of the area based on a geographical feature.

Around Beiseker we had many such districts.  Some of the names of the districts around here are; Greenfield, Paddy Springs, Beeman, Scotia, Brushy Lake, and Silbernagel, among others.  These tiny school districts paid their teachers a few hundred dollars a year to teach the formative grades in those little one room schools. Supplies were short, times were tough, but these little districts started what I consider one of the best educational systems in the world! 

Many famous Albertans got their start in such a school.

Friday, May 29, 2015


The streets of our village have been plagued with potholes and frost boils every spring, but this year it's particularly bad!  Thank you to those who have informed me and the Village Office about many of the problem areas. 

Frost boils are caused by too much water under the roadway, making the surface layers very soft.  We can either barricade them off and let them firm up as the water table goes down, or we can dig up the area, put in new material and pack it well.  Obviously the first choice is the cheapest.  Each soft frost boil area will be assessed and dealt with over the next few weeks.

Potholes are caused by somewhat similar circumstances but usually affect the top layers in a small area.  I think I've been informed about every pothole within the village limits.  Some have been filled with a sand, gravel and tar mix called "cold mix," while others will have to wait until our streets are swept clean during the first week of June. 

After the streets are swept the remaining potholes will be repaired.  One of the areas of big concern is at the corner of North Road and First Avenue.  That area will be attended to during that first week of June. 

If you see another pothole or frost boil which seems to have missed our scrutiny, please report it to the Village of Beiseker Office, by calling 403-947-3774!

Thank you very much for you patience.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Congratulations 2015 Beiseker Grads!

I had the distinct honour of speaking at the Beiseker Community School Graduation Ceremonies, last Friday night.

Thirty seven graduates were given several tidbits of advice from a number of speakers, including me.  I understand that a number of this year's grads will be going on to further education either at a college, technical school, university, or in an apprenticeship program.  Some are planning to go directly into the job market.

I envy those youngsters, even though they are heading out into a world which looks at times like it's going backwards instead of advancing.  They have the hopes and aspirations of youth along with the strength and confidence that comes with twelve years of schooling. 

I hope some of them will either remain here in Beiseker, or return here in the future.  We need those new ideas and that dedication to keep our little village alive and vibrant.

Best wishes and congratulations to the Beiseker Class of 2015, and good luck to you all!

p.s.  I heard that the Grad Weekend went very well without any serious incidents.  Congratulations on that, too!

Indy 500 was Great, but.....

I enjoy watching open wheel car racing.  It reminds me of my youth!

I watched the Indianapolis 500 auto race, yesterday.  It was a great race, with plenty of drama, right up to the checkered flag!

One thing that irked me was the number and frequency of the commercials.  I realize that the broadcasters make their money by selling commercial time, but it was getting ridiculous.  I wish there was a way we could pay to watch sports events like Indy without commercials, or "colour commentary" for that matter.  That would be something I'd buy!

And congratulations to Juan Pablo Montoya, who won the 99th running of that race!  His average qualifying time was 224.657 miles per hour which is somewhere around 350+ km/h, even faster than the traffic on the QEII between Calgary and Edmonton!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Crescent Heights High School Reunion

I hope you all had a great Victoria Day long weekend!

I had a fun one.  I attended the fiftieth anniversary of my high school graduation from Crescent Heights High School in Calgary, which corresponded with the one hundredth anniversary of the school's founding. 

My wife and I were able to attend many of the events scheduled over the three day celebration.  I met several classmates, many of whom I recognized only by name.  We've all changed a bit since then!

At the closing banquet, two very distinguished Crescent graduates, Ken Taylor and Doug Mitchellspoke about the importance of their high school to their lives overall.  It was quite moving.

Here's a big "thank-you" to Century of Celebration Co-Chairs Murray Anderson and Stew Hambly, along with their little army of volunteers for making last weekend most memorable.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Great Season for the Calgary Flames!

Many years ago, I was a serious and dedicated NHL hockey fan.  My son Rhys and I would attend as many Calgary Flames games as we could over the winter.  We even managed to see one of the Stanley Cup Playoff games during their "run for the Cup" in 1989. My favorite players were Theo Fleury and Lanny McDonald, while my son's was Mike Vernon.

The NHL Strike-Lockout a few years ago really soured me on that level of hockey.  To me, it looked like a bunch of rich hockey players fighting with a bunch of rich owners - millionaires versus billionaries.  I haven't really paid much attention to NHL hockey ever since.

Until this past winter!  I really took an interest in this upstart Flames team as they battled their way, first into the playoffs, then through the first round against the Vancouver Canucks.  I even watched a couple of periods on TV.

This was a team that wasn't supposed to make it that far!  Yet they worked hard and persevered!

I felt badly for them when they lost to the Anaheim Ducks, but I certainly thought they had nothing to feel ashamed about.  Those youngsters worked so hard, and their hockey was fun to watch, too.

Congratulations to the Calgary Flames hockey club.  You certainly proved yourselves to be a top notch and classy bunch.  And thank-you for re-kindling my interest in professional hockey!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Saturday Coffee at Beiseker Airport

This coming Saturday is the third one of the month which makes it Coffee Day at the Beiseker Airport!  We'll have the coffee on between 10:00 a.m. and Noon in the little clubhouse.  There'll be goodies to eat and lots of great plane conversation.  We'd love to see you there!   

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Great Clean-Up Day!

We had about two dozen people turn out for Beiseker's annual Clean-Up Day!  We did a clean-up all around town, but we concentrated on the public areas and parks. 

Please check in the lane way behind your house for anything that fell there with the snow this past winter. that we might have missed.   Don't forget the irregular garbage pick-up on May 19!

Councillor Dave McKenzie arranged to have a shredding truck from Iron Mountain here on Saturday, too.  Donations were made to the Library.  Thanks Dave! 

Here's a BPOTB (Beiseker Pat On The Back) and a thank-you to all of you who helped out and to Michelle Boyer for organizing the day.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Clean Up Saturday Morning!

Don't forget today, Saturday, May 9 is Beiseker's annual clean-up day.  We meet at the Village Office in Beiseker at 10:00 a.m.  They'll have garbage bags for us there and a map showing which public  areas of town need our attention.  I'll see you there!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Alberta's New Government

Were you shocked by the results of yesterday's provincial election?  I certainly was.

I was predicting a PC win with a smaller majority (around 50 MLAs) with a strong NDP Opposition.  Boy, did I get it wrong!  This is only the second time in Alberta's history that we've elected a left leaning government.

Our first was the Alberta Liberal government in Alberta's infant years as a province, back in 1905.  Ever since the Liberals were voted out in the 1920s, we've always chosen a right leaning government starting with the UFA (United Farmers of Alberta), then Social Credit and onto Peter Lougheed's Progressive Conservatives.  That four decade Progressive Conservative dynasty ended last night.

One politician I lament losing is Jim Prentice.  I realize that some of last night's results were partially of his making, but I believe the man is a true Albertan - and has always had the best interests of this province at heart.

I refuse to blow taps on this province I love.  People are citing NDP screw-ups in other provinces as a prediction of what will happen here.  I disagree.

Alberta is absolutely nothing like the other Canadian provinces which have elected NDP governments.  Our economy is strong here, despite the blip in oil prices.  They'll recover!  They always have.  Alberta's economy is still the envy of the rest of this great nation.

I say: give the Alberta NDP Government a chance.  I'm sure they will work hard to keep Alberta on top!  I believe the sun will continue to shine on this province.  And congratulations to Premier-Elect Rachel Notley!  I'm looking forward to working with you, and your new government, in the near future.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Election Day Tomorrow!

Tomorrow (May 5th) is the big day!  We've heard all the candidates and all the party leaders speak about their vision of what Alberta should look like over the next four years.

Now it's our turn! 

Over the past few weeks, I've had the privilege of meeting with the candidates or their designates for our constituency, Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills.  In my opinion, we are especially fortunate to have a very strong and dedicated field of candidates running for election here - from every party!  As voters, it is our job to pick the one who best represents the Alberta we would like to see, and vote for them.

Two weeks ago, I asked some questions of the candidates here on my blog.  I received a number of answers, from most of the candidates.  I will republish a list of who responded to my five questions and what they said.  I urge you to read them over again.

The polls open tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m, at the Beiseker Community Centre.  They will be open until 8:00 p.m.  

Check that card you received in the mail a while back from Elections Alberta, and it will tell you where you are to vote.  If you've lost that card, take all the ID you can find with you (picture ID is the best) and know your physical address (street address or land description).  The folks at the polling station should be able to help you.

Remember, you are choosing Alberta's provincial legislative make-up for the next four years!  And if you don't get out and vote tomorrow, you have no right to complain about our provincial government come Wednesday!

Vote for what you want - but please vote!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Taxation: Tax Collection

Once the mill rate has been set, the municipality can now prepare and send out its tax notices. 

There is a deadline the municipality must follow in sending out these notices, and a deadline by which those taxes must be paid.  When you receive your tax notice, check carefully to make sure you know what the last possible day is to pay your property taxes

Traditionally, municipalities charge huge penalty fees for late paid taxes to encourage folks to pay on time.  This is because the municipality must have the money in the bank when the province comes calling to grab their Education Portion! 

Most municipalities in Alberta have two methods of paying property taxes.  Method One is simply a lump sum payment on or before the tax due date. 

Method Two is much easier in my opinion.  It involves paying monthly instalments throughout the year.  We've been on Method Two for a few years now and it's great!  If you think this might work for you, contact the Beiseker Village Office (403-947-3774) and get the details from them.

If property taxes are unpaid, the municipality has a long and involved procedure to collect them.  The property owner can come into the municipal office and work out a payment plan to cover the amount owing, plus the penalties. 

The municipality also has the right to take the property and sell it to recover those unpaid taxes.  There is a time frame which must be followed.  I believe it's three years.  If the property is seized and sold, the municipality will subtract the amount owing on back taxes with penalties - and then place the remainder of the selling price in the bank. The former owner can apply to have this remainder returned to him.

Municipal Taxation (aka Property Tax) is an important part of keeping our municipalities operating smoothly.  I haven't met one person in my life who looks forward to paying their property taxes!   But almost everyone I meet understands why these taxes are so important to a municipality. 

I hope this series has helped you understand how Municipal Taxation works and why it is so important.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Taxation: Setting the Mill Rate

Step one was the assessment; figuring out how much the entire municipality is worth (the Overall or Total Assessment). 

Step two is building a budget to determine how much the municipality needs to operate for one year.

Step three is setting a mill rate.  Setting the mill rate is really very simple.  All you have to do, is divide what you need into the overall (or total) assessment.  The mill rate is the number of dollars the property owner must pay, per thousand dollars of his property's value, as declared on the assessment.  For example; if a home's assessed value is $200,000 and the mill rate is set at 6.5 mills, the homeowner must pay 200 X 6.5 = $1300 in property tax.

Oops, not so fast!  The provincial government shoves its hand in there, too!  The Ministry of Education tells each municipality how much it will take to pay for education services in the area.  They don't ask, they don't advise, they just tell and take!  Alberta Education simply dips into each municipality's bank account a couple of times a year, and snatches out tens of thousands of dollars each time. 

If a municipality is having difficulty collecting its taxes, this makes the operation of that municipality even harder!  The province takes those funds out - whether or not the municipality has been able to collect them!   If some taxpayers are unable (or unwilling) to pay their taxes, the municipality suffers because it still must make sure it has the money in bank to pay the TOTAL bill for the provincial education portion of the property tax -- even though some of those dollars haven't been collected yet!

When you receive your tax notice, check down to see how much of that is going to the province.  It will be listed there as a mill rate for education.  This is added onto the municipality's mill rate. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Taxation: Municipal Budgeting

Step two in the taxation process is building a budget. 

Each municipality must go over their spending in each and every department during the previous year, then decide how much money that municipality will need to operate for the upcoming year.  The budgeting process begins in the fall of each year.

Most larger municipalities finalize their budgets close to the beginning of the calendar year, but many smaller ones finalize theirs in late spring.  For those who wait until spring, they must create and authorize an "Interim Budget," which is basically just an extension of last year's budget.

Provincial law mandates that municipalities must not operate with a deficit budget - so councils and administration staff  must work hard to "balance the budget" each year before in can be approved.

Smaller communities like ours must run a very tight ship.  We must provide our citizens with everything a larger municipality does, but with far fewer people to "pay the bills!"   Citizens of Beiseker still require streets and sidewalks, street lights, water & sewer services, playgrounds, recreation & cultural facilities, and fire protection, along with a host of other services -- but our tax base is much smaller than a city!

For example, an arena in a city must serve (and be paid for by) at least 20,000 taxpayers.  A small town arena may only serve fewer than 2000 people.  Yet both buildings must be built, maintained, and operated in a similar manner.  Beiseker is very fortunate that our Ag Society has taken on the task of managing our arena, here!

After the budget has been created and approved by the elected council, it's time to set the mill rate.