Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for January 14, 2014

‘We have to make some tough choices’: mayor

As Whitehorse property owners face the lowest tax hike they’ve seen in 10 years, those on the city’s water and sewer system are expected see their bills go up for the first time in three years.

By Stephanie Waddell on January 14, 2014 at 2:57 pm

photo

Photo submitted

As Whitehorse property owners face the lowest tax hike they’ve seen in 10 years, those on the city’s water and sewer system are expected see their bills go up for the first time in three years.

Mayor Dan Curtis unveiled the city’s proposed $68.5-million operating budget at Monday’s city council meeting.

He brought forward the proposed average 1.7 per cent tax increase and a 4.7 per cent hike in water and sewer fees.

A provisional budget for 2015 also suggests another 4.7 per cent water and sewer fee increase next year as well.

As Curtis explained, the boost to the utility fees was spread over two years to lessen the impact on ratepayers.

Throughout his speech, Curtis stressed the spending plan is a “belt-tightening” budget. He called it a product of working to find a balance between offering services residents need and have come to expect, and keeping tax levels as low as possible.

“Snow clearing this winter is a good example of this balancing act,” Curtis said.

“Many people would like us to clear the streets faster, but this would increase costs and taxes. So we’re trying to find the right balance between service levels and costs to taxpayers.

“We are presenting a balanced budget because it’s important to live within our means. The proposed budget is moving towards our goals in a way that is fiscally responsible.”

The city’s population has surpassed 28,000. That growth has numerous benefits for the community, the mayor said.

“Through the finance committee, we are enhancing the city’s connection to the community, including businesses,” he continued.

“We have a healthy land supply with strong opportunities for residential and commercial development. This has recently helped stabilize the housing market.

“Whitehorse has become a regional hub that is connected to B.C., Alberta by three airlines, and soon Air North will connect us directly to Yellowknife and Ottawa,” Curtis said.

He went on to point out Whitehorse is fortunate to have excellent business and employment opportunities, recreation facilities, an exciting arts community and wilderness “at our doorstep.”

The costs of running the city continue to rise, with about half the city’s operating budget going to wages
Energy – electrical, heating and fuel – is another major expense that is beyond the city’s control, the mayor said.

And, like everyone else in the territory, the city is dealing with the 3.8 per cent power rate increase, and must budget for those costs, he said.

“That said, we are making energy efficiency improvements that save us money,” Curtis said.

The 1.7 per cent hike in property taxes amounts to an average of $41 more the average homeowner will pay this year and an additional $224 business owners will pay, but that doesn’t keep pace with the rising costs for the city.

“... so we have to make some tough choices to cut costs,” Curtis said.

“The city will reduce planned spending by $1 million in 2014. We will achieve these cost savings by holding back on some new positions and initiatives and keeping operational increases to a minimum.

“The reductions mean that the city is doing the best it can with its resources, but is committed to keeping taxes low.”

After the meeting, Curtis told reporters the city had been looking at a tax hike of 4.8 per cent in 2014.

While some positions will not be filled, there will be no cuts to current employees.

As well, the transit service that was enhanced last year with a new loop format and at least one-hour service will remain intact.

“It’s really a great day,” Curtis said of the budget.

He also stressed that while residents who are on the city’s water and sewer system can expect to pay more than nine per cent in the next two years over what they have been paying, it has been three years since the last increase.

The hike is spread out between 2014 and 2015.

It means the monthly price for water and sewer services to Whitehorse homes would rise to $68.68 this year and possibly to nearly $72 per month in 2015 if that year’s provisional budget is approved.

Other fees proposed for an increase as part of this year’s budget include:

• curbside compost and garbage collection from $9 per month to $10.30 a month for homes with one cart and from $20 per month to $22.60 per month for homes with two carts due to higher staffing costs and packer truck maintenance;

• the standard annual 1.5 per cent increase for park rental fees and cemetery fees;

• two per cent in recreation service fees from the annual 1.5 per cent that would come into effect in September;

• 15 per cent in storage rates for recreation and facility services that would take effect in September;

• five per cent to pool rentals, also taking effect in September; and

• advertising rates which will rise by two per cent in the Active Living Guide, rounding advertising on boards and signs to the nearest $5 amount and changing all fees to round to the nearest 0.05 rather than 0.10 cents except for punch cards because they must be divisible by 10.

The operating budget comes after the city passed its $12.9-million 2014 capital budget last month.

If the operating budget passes as is, it means the city will spend $81.4 million in 2014.

While council passed first reading of the operating budget at its meeting last night, residents will have the opportunity to let the city know what they think of the city’s spending plan at a public input session at council’s Jan. 27 meeting.

A report from the input provided will then come forward prior to second and third readings scheduled for Feb. 10.

Councillors Kirk Cameron and Dave Stockdale were absent from Monday’s meeting, with Stockdale away on medical leave.

By STEPHANIE WADDELL
Star Reporter

CommentsAdd a comment

north of 60

Jan 14, 2014 at 5:32 pm

Considering the track record of the so-called “Planning” department, that $87 I gave them in my taxes was totally wasted.
Cut the planning budget and give the money to Transit to lower bus fares.

A Citizens Committee could do better planning than the clowns we’re paying, and it wouldn’t cost as much.

Wayne

Jan 14, 2014 at 6:15 pm

What are the amounts for wages, benefits, and pensions?  Seriously, are we supposed to be happy with an increase of 1.7%?  How about a roll back of 1.7%?

June Jackson

Jan 14, 2014 at 8:56 pm

$41. bucks a year doesn’t seem like much.. if you rent, like I do, that’s going to be a $200 a month increase to cover water, sewer and tax increases..maybe more.. don’t know about others landlords, but mine has dollar signs in both eyes. When I question the increase he will swear up and down its just barely covering the cost. 

There are domino effects to everything, and while I understand the City is living beyond their means, I could wish they had found some other way to cover the bills, even a hotel tax, so that tourists and visitors could help pay the bills.

yukoner

Jan 15, 2014 at 11:45 am

It’s getting really hard to live here or even want to. So the power goes up and the tax payer get hit twice once at our own home then on a tax hike from the city.
The services here have been getting worse not better we should get a discount. Then you have to go and build a ten million dollar building and hand over a sh%# load of my tax dollars to a ski hill ever year. The cow want’s to build yet another building for yourself on the backs of tax payer. Then there’s all the special interest groups wanting money and a police station. I think you on council should really think about what you are doing to this once great little city.

Frank

Jan 15, 2014 at 1:39 pm

I wish there was more money set aside for park planning and development. It seems like the city wants to use green spaces in unsustainable ways rather than plan for the future.
I worry that the $13,000,000 placed in reserve may have to be used to pay for mining claims in good standing which were expropriated by the city a few years ago.
If the culture within council was pro preservation of green spaces people could go about their lives and enjoy Whitehorse rather than being compelled to attend meetings and fight for what should be offered protection.

Northern Me

Jan 15, 2014 at 3:48 pm

When will the city get it, you cannot run a government on the backs of tax payers!
All other public sectors across the country, have been told to do more with less and I think the city should be taking a page out of those play books!!

It Stinks!!!!

unreal

Jan 15, 2014 at 4:25 pm

Whenever I hear of a cost breakdown, down to ‘pennies per day’ as in a radio interview on this, I think of a snake-oil salesman. When telemarketers try this on the phone, I immediately hang up. Why not explain what it is per year per household? Now, that hits me sideways. The result has a bigger impact and is closer to the truth.

Try this: Take a penny and double it each day for a month! Doesn’t sound like much at all until you realize the total sum!!

Just Say'in

Jan 15, 2014 at 9:11 pm

What a bunch of Clowns. If we could just have the money back on all the engineering costs and ongoing snow removal costs associated with all the traffic circles that don’t work, and no one wanted. Planning dept. my A** Chief engineer should be gone. How about Whistle Bend, Sima, CGC, Fire hall, New Buses again this year, Red brick and flowers everywhere, Art in all public buildings, paying bylaw to enforce trails. Why do we put up with it? Taxes go up for businesses and they have to increase what they charge, it is an endless circle.

DMZ

Jan 15, 2014 at 9:26 pm

Those numbers they give—a tax increase represents $1.50 a week and so on—never seem to work. The tax increase is noticeable. As far as the “increase” in population, which is negliglble overall, does it really justify all the new construction? So far it increases expenses without being able to recover them. Case in point, Whistle Bend.

And a new building? I would honestly like any level of government to have a rational discussion about new vs. renovation/making do/reworking the program. |t simply can’t always be the case that new construction is a better long term investment when buildings are around that are underused. Yukon governments of all stripes are a little too in love with new construction. It’s an embarrassment sometimes, all this conspicuous consumption.

Denise G

Jan 16, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Once again this is ridiculous.  Raise taxes and utility fees because the city does not have enough funds to cover its expenses.  But they have hundreds of thousands (actually millions over the years) to just give away to the ski hill. 

Our road has been plowed once this year.  Twice all last winter. It is narrowed down to one lane with huge banks on each side.  The skiers could come to our street to ski.

I for one am sick to death of having my tax money go to unnecessary expenses when even the downtown streets are a snowy icy mess.

Oh Please

Jan 17, 2014 at 9:22 am

What this issue needs is a little political will on the part of the people we elected. All of these folks talked about not raising taxes during the election campaign. Let’s hold them to it.
The politicans needs to tell the bean counters at City Hall to cut budgets and live within your means.
I get the impression from the Mayor he thinks that the money that taxpayers have is a bottomless pit, well it isn’t!

Andy

Jan 17, 2014 at 12:06 pm

@ Denise
Our road (in Copper Ridge) has not seen a plow this winter a single time.  I’m guessing there is 18” of ‘passively compacted’ snow that the top 1/3 has turned to slush in the warm air.  Our truck makes it down the street, but the car can’t. 
This morning, I had to push two neighbours vehicles as they were stuck in the middle of the (no single lane) road.

Max Mack

Jan 17, 2014 at 7:31 pm

Our City Council and various levels of “government” (Northwestel, Yukon Electric, Yukon Energy) still don’t get it. We have had enough.

Stop with the sky-in-the-pie, multi-million dollar projects. Even with the Federal or Territorial governments giving you millions and millions in funding, you turn around and expense it—which means we have to pay for it through increased revenue charges.

I would like it if I could charge every City councilor and employee the cost of 1 cup of coffee per day. After all, it’s only a cup of coffee . . .

tired of the increases

Jan 18, 2014 at 5:19 pm

“The costs of running the city continue to rise, with about half the city’s operating budget going to wages” and “...  the city will spend $81.4 million in 2014”. Does that mean we taxpayers are paying $40 million a year for City workers??? Take a look at their contract - attendance bonuses, long service bonuses, travel allowances, 50% off bus passes for employees and families, 50% off Canada Games Centre passes for employees and families etc etc. I don’t begrudge people earning good wages, but maybe here’s a place to start trimming!

north of 60

Jan 18, 2014 at 6:59 pm

We should have WCB test the City council chambers for whatever virus or bacteria is in there which causes Mayors and Councils, elected on promises of reducing spending, to become infected with a desire to frivolously spend other people’s money and raise taxes to cover their wishes and dreams.

spud

Jan 20, 2014 at 9:14 pm

All the whining above seems to be just that.  I have already served notice on my tenants that they can expect $50.00 per month increase in rent and if they don’t like it they should start looking for alternate accommodation now.

Someone above mentioned a new police station….first I have heard of this.
Be careful what you wish for.  The Feds might just decide Whitehorse is big enough now to pay for their own policing - yes, it is true,  Whitehorse does not pay for its policing.  The RCMP does not have a contract with the COW to police the City. 
When that day arrives the City will have to provide a building, clerical staff and millions of dollars for police officers.

Ask communities of similar size down South what their policing costs are.

If coffee breaks were limited to 15 minutes and lunch breaks to half hour including traveling time from work site to Tims or wherever. We could leave more positions we don’t need VACANT AND SIMPLY ELIMINATE THEM.

Add a comment

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your full name and email address are required before your comment will be posted.

Commenting is not available in this section entry.

Comment preview