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Comparing numbers

How Whistler’s 2009 budget stacks up against other mountain towns and neighbouring municipalities

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Also, staff at Aspen froze several vacant positions and cut their bonus payment program.

Closer to home, Vancouver Council has approved an increase in property taxes to cover a $31.1 million gap in their budget.

But, while in previous years the tax increase would have likely been six per cent, Vancouver's council voted to redistribute taxes between businesses and residents. In other words, residents are faced with a 8.3 per cent tax increase while business owners will see a 4.3 per cent tax increase.

Further north along Sea to Sky highway, District of Squamish Council is still wrestling with their budget numbers.

Earlier this year, Squamish municipal staff calculated that a 17 per cent tax increase would be necessary for the town to maintain service levels. But Squamish's financial advisory committee then asked staff to go back, rework the numbers, and look at actually decreasing property taxes 4 per cent below 2008 levels.

Squamish's 2009 tax increase will likely rest somewhere between these two figures. (See related story).

Not everyone is slashing expenditures or hiking up taxes, though.

According to Nikki Gilmore, manager of finance for the Village of Pemberton, residents can expect a three per cent tax increase this year - a number which is on par with previous years and close to the consumer price index (CPI) in Vancouver.

The village also hasn't made any cuts to its budgets or laid off staff.

"We have a very tight budget as it is," said Gilmore.

"We don't have very many additional expenses that we can afford, so we try to be able to pick off some projects based on our strategic plan and go forward with that. We phase them over the years, so we can afford to do it, and taxpayers can too."

Every city, town and village of course has a unique financial landscape and comparing budgets can be tricky. For example municipalities in the United States receive the largest proportion of their revenue from sales tax, whereas the largest source of revenue for municipalities in Canada is from property taxes.

Whistler's own situation is distinct because the resort municipality has recently hit its growth cap, meaning revenue from development is winding down, and the amount of hotel tax the municipality receives has declined through changes to tax classifications and declining business.

Whistler taxpayers are now faced with a 19 per cent tax increase over the next three years to bridge a $5.7 million shortfall. Specifically, taxpayers will see an eight per cent jump this year, a seven per cent increase in 2010 and a four per cent increase in 2012.