The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) released its fourth annual BC Municipal Spending Watch report this week, and according to their metrics Whistler is second-worst in the province when in comes to municipal spending growth.
The report compares the spending growth in over 150 municipalities across B.C. to their population growth from 2000 to 2009, while also looking at the change in per capita spending. Communities are ranked by size and by region as well as overall, and there is also a separate table this year's report for vacation and destination regions where the permanent population doesn't reflect the need for services because of second homeowners and visitors.
The report also tracks how much a family of four might have saved in that time period if budget increases were tied to the rate of inflation and population growth.
Provincially, the CFIB report shows that operating spending, adjusted for inflation, increased 46 per cent from 2000 to 2009 while the population increased just 12 per cent. In 2009, total municipal spending reached $4.4 billion (in 2000 dollars), up $339 million (in 2000 dollars) from 2008.
Whistler saw its population grow 11 per cent that 10-year period, while the community's operating spending increased 86 per cent. Per capita spending growth was 68 per cent, and in 2009 the municipality spent $6,306 per capita - the highest spending by any community. CFIB also reported that a family of four in Whistler could have saved $36,663 if spending had been tied to inflation.
Only Lytton fared worse than Whistler under the CFIB's microscope. From 2000 to 2009 Lytton's population decreased 29 per cent, while operating spending increased 85 per cent. Per capita spending growth was 161 per cent, and per capita spending is $4,826. A family of four could have saved $42,175 by tying increases to inflation.
Compared to other resorts, Whistler also had issues. Tofino saw its population grow 24 per cent from 2000 to 2009, while operating spending rose 100 per cent. Per capita spending growth was 61 per cent. While spending growth was higher than Whistler, per capita spending was $2,039.
In addition to spending, the CFIB looked at other factors like municipal revenue sources.
Some of the CFIB's other findings include:
• Funding transfers to local governments from other levels of government have more than tripled from 2000 to 2009, rising to 214 per cent.
• Municipalities doubled revenues from sources that include fees for parking and recreation to business licenses.
• Vacation and destination communities are among the highest spenders.
• In communities where the population is shrinking, local governments are spending more.
"It's a wake-up call to taxpayers," wrote the CFIB. "It's time to demand more accountability from municipal governments."