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News archive for February 11, 2014

Tax-, bill-raising budget passes unanimously

City council unanimously passed its $68.5-million operating budget Monday evening, raising property taxes by 1.7 per cent and water and sewer bills by 4.7 per cent for this year.

By Stephanie Waddell on February 11, 2014 at 3:48 pm

photo

Photo by Whitehorse Star

Rob Fendrick and Coun. Betty Irwin

City council unanimously passed its $68.5-million operating budget Monday evening, raising property taxes by 1.7 per cent and water and sewer bills by 4.7 per cent for this year.

Members were quick to praise the spending plan as a document bringing the lowest increase to property taxes the city has seen in a decade, despite ever-rising labour and energy costs, as Coun. John Streicker pointed out.

A 1.7 per cent hike means the city is not “losing ground,” he noted, pointing out it can continue to meet its costs.

Coun. Dave Stockdale said there were “operating efficiencies and service adjustments” made to what the city had originally envisioned for the budget. He then asked city management to provide a few examples where those changes shaved $1 million off of what had been proposed for the budget to bring down the tax hike.

Rob Fendrick, the city’s director of corporate services, pointed out without a lot of development yet in Whistle Bend, the city won’t be required to plow so many roads in Whitehorse’s newest subdivision.

There are also several proposed new hires that won’t be going ahead.

Among them are a lands co-ordinator, a customer service representative, a building inspector, financial systems analyst and two firefighters.

Upon mentioning the two firefighters who won’t be hired this year, Fendrick assured council the city will continue to be well-covered for any firefighting needs.

“We do have adequate staffing,” he said.

He also said that not going ahead with some of the new hires may mean it takes a little longer to do required financial reporting as well as longer line-ups at the front desk of the planning department where the new customer service representative would have been based.

The decision not to move forward with other positions such as the lands co-ordinator and building inspector reflects the current market situation for land sales in the territory, he said.

While council members were all in agreement in passing the budget, Coun. Betty Irwin took the opportunity to, once again, highlight what she believes is a need for municipalities to have alternative ways to generate revenue other than property taxes.

Irwin said administration and council should be proud that the tax hike is only 1.7 per cent.

She went on to state the “hard realty” is that most municipalities are facing mounting costs which are more difficult to pay with property taxes alone.

At the same time, property taxes are “regressive and unfair” to lower-income residents who face ever-rising housing costs as property taxes climb, she said.

Housing costs have gone up much higher in recent years than the rate of inflation, Irwin added.

“Municipalities do need new fiscal arrangements,” she said.

Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu echoed Irwin’s comments stating: “We definitely need another source (of) revenue.”

She then said that’s a matter that will take time to look at and right now, the city has an operating budget it can be proud of, having shaved $1 million from it through efficiencies.

“We should only take what we need and create efficiencies where we can,” she said.

Curteanu remarked she’s confident the 2014 plan is a fiscally responsible budget the city can be proud of.

Coun. Kirk Cameron also reflected on the process to get to the final spending plan. He cited a more extensive process this year that began earlier and provided more opportunities for public input.

“It was long in the making,” he said.

Cameron then said he believes the budget process will be even stronger next year, with the city’s new finance committee set to play a key role in the 2015 spending plan.

CommentsAdd a comment

June Jackson

Feb 11, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Of course they passed it.. anyone who has access to seemingly unlimited money fails to have any real grip on financial reality.  This council won’t get a reality check until the next election, and the next council will fall to the same lack of reality..which is..The CoW council lives beyond our means.. so they have to keep raising taxes and the cost of services soars. 

Didn’t council just give themselves a fat little pay raise?

Yukoner

Feb 11, 2014 at 4:50 pm

The city doesn’t need to find new ways to raise money they need to quit spending it recklessly. $400.000 trail (sima)trail use consulting,hand holding, (NIMBY sitting) Roundabout building money wasting granola crunching.

Brice Carruthers

Feb 11, 2014 at 5:50 pm

Sima. Half million dollar trail to Hillcrest. Roundabouts. Widening the Bridge to accommodate bicycles not cars.  Huge buses running around empty.  Snow removal at overtime and union wages while private sector equipment sits idol. Expensive planning and consultation processes using expensive consultants….

There are lots of ways to cut expenses, but that is never on the table….it is always about raising taxes.  For shame!

north_of_60

Feb 11, 2014 at 11:17 pm

That’s what happens when we let greenies spend our tax money on their “sustainability” fantasies. 
With no transparency and accountability, we shouldn’t expect anything else but more inept management and misspent tax dollars.

First step

Feb 12, 2014 at 6:58 am

Anyone else get the feeling their shoulders are going to get dislocated from patting themselves on the back?!? Ok, the smallest increase in years, that’s good. So next year - instruct the administration to prepare a budget with ‘Zero’ increase, and see what comes of it. I wish there was a way to find out how many City of Whitehorse employees/managers there are, and what the cost to pay them is. Can’t help but think that there are some $$ to be saved there.

Virgil

Feb 13, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Why not renegotiate wages? COW employees range from $11 (lowest paid not full time) ... to $47.99 an hour (senior level) as per schedule A (2013… these have probably all increased.
http://www.city.whitehorse.yk.ca/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=1652

You should also note that doesn’t include little “benefits” and allowances such as:

“If you show up to work on time for a whole year… we give you a bonus!”
(That’s an incentive to go to work. So you have to pay a wage to a worker and an incentive to earn that wage).

All full time permanent employees designated by the City as requiring safety boots shall be eligible to receive a $150.00 safety boot allowance on April first each year.  (...any employee walking through any hard hat/steel toed area can request this allowance).

$750.00 each year for tools (each employee that uses their tools on the job).

All permanent full time employees who have completed two or more years of continuous service shall be entitled to receive a Yukon Bonus travel benefit in the amount of $2,900.00 and be entitled to the Yukon Bonus each subsequent year of continuous service thereafter.

On top of a high regular wage (in comparison to the national standard) we have a union that is receiving extra compensation through “allowances” for doing the job they were paid to do in the first place. Why are you paying employees a wage and then paying them for doing their job? Isn’t that what the wage is for?

Try and understand section 26.

bobby bitman

Feb 13, 2014 at 5:39 pm

How simple does city finance and planning think people are?  Apparently they slipped reality straight past the city councillors but not past this tax payer.

Water and sewer goes right into city revenue and is equal to most homeowner’s yearly taxes.  $196.74 x 4 =$785 per year.  After the homeowner’s grant, this is equal to or more than your yearly taxes on a three bedroom duplex in Takhini.  Those TAXES went up 4.7%.  Do the math, proud councillors.  (They all seem very ‘proud’ of our tax hike.).  Our taxes went up 3.2% this year, not 1.7%.  And I’m wondering whether properties have also been reassessed again so multiplying their assessment by the mill rate = another tax hike.

June Jackson

Feb 13, 2014 at 7:07 pm

Attenion Virgil:
I disagree with your stand on cutting wages. So many people think that taking money out of the community through wage cuts or layoffs is the way to ‘save’ money.  If your house is on fire, I’d bet you’d pay a lot more than our firemen are making now to have them at your place.. when the sewers are backing up and crap is all over your bathroom, I’d bet you’d pay a lot to have them there.. these guys are the one’s out at -40, who are on their graters when there is a whiteout.. those special boots you are griping about have fungal protection for when they are working in the sewers.. You want to go down there in unprotected shoes/boots?  The only “employee’s” who are overpaid are our councilors who can’t manage a budget to save their collective ***es.  BTW..I am not a city employee, but I have been the recipient of service from them and I consider them all, except council as worth every penny they get.

Virgil

Feb 14, 2014 at 1:14 pm

June:
When my feet go to work everyday they are properly equipped for the job with my money. It just dawned on me that I’m paying for two pairs of shoes. Each private sector employee is not only paying for themselves to go to work; they are also paying for COW employees to go to work. That’s what our taxes are for. Not additional bonuses and incentives. 

People that pump fuel, shovel driveways, sidewalks are out in -40 as well. Truck drivers that bring fuel on the highway are on the highways in whiteout conditions. The people that bring your groceries are in whiteout conditions.

I don’t want them to go down into sewers unprotected (have worked sewers myself). I want them to mimic the private sector. Specialized PPE is provided. General PPE is provided. PPE has to be “universal” in that any employee can use it. Boots and gloves usually belong to the individual. For that reason they are required to purchase their own.

Tools: Majority of mechanics should be buying Craftsman, Mastercraft, Snap On, MAC. Lifetime warranty.

north_of_60

Feb 14, 2014 at 8:39 pm

Ask almost anyone if they would trade their job in the private sector for a government job with cushy benefits, easy hours, lots of holidays, and minimal responsibility backed up by a union and lawyers to cover their ass, and what do you think they’ll say?  A common career path is to work unsuccessfully in the private sector till your political connections secure a government job, then sit tight and do as little as possible that might endanger that pension.  Take early retirement and go back into the private sector with that pension subsidy that almost guarantees success.  It’s the Yukon Dream.

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