Concerns over the municipality’s budget were rehashed Tuesday night when council voted 5-2 to amend the five year financial plan.
“I didn’t support the budget a couple of months ago for a number of reasons, and one of those was the significant amount of money we are spending on the capital side of things,” said Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.
“I continue to have those concerns.”
Wilhelm-Morden said that the budget amendment now calls for $34 million in capital spending, up $5 million from May when council first approved the five-year financial plan.
Later on, when speaking about the substantial increase in capital spending, Wilhelm Morden added: “It seems to be driven by February 2010, and we should not be doing that. We should be stretching this out and taking a temperate approach. I don’t think we are doing that here.”
The councillor also said she was concerned that the revenue for the operating funds has decreased by $400,000, and that consequently expenditures are also up $400,000.
“I understand from what we were told today that that is a result of our investment income dropping because we are spending our reserves faster than what we had original anticipated,” said Wilhelm-Morden.
“I am not terribly happy about that…. We spent so much time on the budget before, going through it line-by-line, and now we are just adding $400,000 to expenditures.”
She also pointed out that the budget now calls for $275,000 to be spent on the village “look and feel”.
Several council members responded to her comments, including Mayor Ken Melamed who said that her points are reflective of the community’s concern with the budget.
However, he added that he thought the majority of council is confident that a vast amount of due diligence has been done to balance the budget.
“We are in a period of time when there are a number of factors that are not within our control, and there are budget escalations that are there,” said Melamed.
“I think due diligence has been done… This is going to be an ongoing, multi-year exercise to get this budget under control.”
Councillor Ralph Forsyth also voted against third reading of the five-year financial plan amendment.
Municipality takes bar owners’ concerns seriously
Following an open house last month that saw strong representation from Whistler’s bars and restaurants, the municipality is forwarding nine comments to the province on its proposed law that will allow for temporary liquor licenses during the Olympics and Paralympics.
One of these comments is that the Resort Municipality of Whistler is concerned that these Olympic liquor licenses could be issued prior to Feb. 1, 2010.
Other comments are that facilities with these special liquor licenses should have admittance by invite-only or be ticketed, and that the liquor laws should be made available for specific days, as well as timeframes less than 24 hours.
A few councillors added that they were apprehensive about how the temporary liquor license could impact local businesses.
“We don’t know exactly what will happen in 2010, but we know it is not a slam dunk that this place is going to be crawling with guests,” said Councillor Eckhard Zeidler.
“I am more than anything concerned about the needs and the viability of our local merchants, whether it is bars or restaurants, and I am less concerned about the Olympic related organizations.”
However Mayor Ken Melamed reminded councillors that such special liquor laws are expected at Olympic events.
“They do not actually sell alcohol at most of these places, it is complimentary,” said Melamed.
“This is really just an enabling leg to be consistent and provide a great Games experience.”
Organizations and agencies that will be able to apply for these licenses include: VANOC; Games sponsors; federal, provincial, and territorial governments of Canada, including Crown corporations; governments of countries participating in the Games; and National Olympic and Paralympic Committees.