Two significant reports have been released by the municipality in as many weeks — the proposed 2016 budget and the Community Life Survey.
Both give us glimpses into how life is going, and what the future might look like, and it's worth taking some time to inform yourself about them.
The budget is wide ranging and again this year proposes tax hikes to property taxes, water parcel taxes and user fees, and sewer parcel taxes and user fees.
Don't forget that close to 40 per cent of the taxes you pay on your bill are not under the control of the municipality — items such as school taxes and so on.
The municipality's total budget is $73,491,994 this year, of which $22,081,148 comes from residential property tax. Fully 47 per cent of funding comes from property value taxes; parcels tax is 10 per cent at $7,510,874, and fees are $18,669,349.
That is a significant amount of money, and considering a great deal of it is spent making sure life here in Whistler is good, every citizen should pay attention to how it is divvied up (thanks to the score or so of residents who showed up at the budget open house last week).
This budget is proposing that 165 action items be tackled with a budget of $34.5 million. Many of these items are ongoing, such as the watermains work in Alpine Meadows ($6 million).
There are other items in the budget that should be illuminated, too I would suggest, for example, the artificial turf field project. According to the budget project's document: "This project builds upon the 2015 Whistler Multi Use Facility Investigative Study and will undertake a facility needs assessment, business case analysis, and conduct a site selection process. Project outcomes will be used to inform future decision making."
In 2016, the budget for this is $150,000. In 2017, it is $3.35 million.
Here are a few other items to consider:
• $10,000 for the creation and implementation of a formal attendance management program;
• $50,000 to repair the snow melt cables in the village breezeway area;
• $28,000 a year from now until 2020 to replace the lights put in for the 2010 Games along the Valley Trail to Cheakamus. They are failing and are "cost prohibitive, according to the RMOW," so are not being repaired.
• Fleet replacement is still a big-ticket item at $1.14 million in 2016. That goes up to $3.87 million in 2017, $2.66 million in 2018, $1.24 million in 2019 and $858,004 in 2020. Purchases include several pickup trucks and cars, three backhoes, a Hiab Crane Truck, a street sweeper, and a sander.
• $15,000 to study whether streetlights should be switched to LED.
• $20,000 to provide a prop for simulated fire attacks on and in a building.
• $35,000 for new signs at the renamed Maury Young Arts Centre.
In the 2015 budget we saw 150 possible projects on the books with a total price tag of $27 million. In the 2014 budget there were 56 new projects funded at $3.8 million.
It's easy to see the scope of the projects increasing as the resort faces the music over aging infrastructure and growing popularity.
Budget documents over the years always seem to propose that money be spent looking at congestion issues on the Sea to Sky Highway even as far down as Squamish. The same thing was mentioned in last year's budget, but no significant plans grew out of that intention.
The proposed budget is a packed document, which reflects the priorities of those living here. Every resident should take the time to read it. You can find everything here: www.whistler.ca/municipal-gov/budget-taxes/resort-municipality-whistler-budget.