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Council: No tax increases in 2012

RMOW CAO Mike Furey to implement performance reviews throughout organization



She said there would be no property tax increases in 2012 during her election campaign, and this week Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden is keeping her word.

It's the first time a mayor of Whistler has been able to say, "no new taxes," in 10 years, said Wilhelm-Morden. Taxpayers have faced a decade of property tax increases totaling 34 per cent.

Along with no tax increases, there will be no utility fee increases either.

Wilhelm-Morden is also following through on her pledge of changing the corporate culture at municipal hall with new efficiencies and cost effectiveness.

So it was with calm satisfaction that the mayor received a report from municipal CAO Mike Furey outlining restructuring changes at the hall, followed by her own presentation of the Council Action Plan — the formal and detailed statement of council's top priorities, topped off by the zero tax increase statement — at Tuesday's meeting.

Within half an hour the two had outlined significant changes not only to how the municipality works but what it will be working on in the term ahead.

"I'm really pleased," she said as she finished outlining the litany of things council aims to do in the next three years. "I'm really excited about this."

"When we were sworn in during the speech that I made that evening I referred to the fact that this was a very politically significant election that we had just gone through," said the mayor, referring to the high voter turnout and the landslide victory.

The swearing-in ceremony wasn't the time to talk about the significance of the council mandate. But it's time now, she said.

"The community spoke in a very loud and clear tone. We listened to that voice and I hope we have, I don't hope, I'm confident that we have reflected that message in this action plan."

Confident — even though the budget is not yet ready in draft form. Confident— even though there was close to a million dollar shortfall for transit at the end of last year. Confident — even though the last three years have seen successive tax hikes and continual struggles to balance the books.

Wilhelm-Morden said simply:

"We wanted to give the taxpayers a break without being irresponsible in doing so. I'm satisfied that we can do that."

When asked about the transit shortfall the mayor said that had been addressed too. It all remains to be seen as the municipality must by law pass its 2012 budget by May.

"We haven't got a draft budget per se, but we're well into it," she said.

But it's not just holding the line at taxes. The action plan outlines plans to explore the feasibility and costs of free Wi-Fi access in the village, initiate a draft cultural plan and create an oversight committee to RMI (Resort Municipality Initiative) funds for tourism projects, to name just a few things.