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Five days to comment on budget

Whistler 2020 actions for 2005 folded into the document



The 2005 municipal budget is hot off the presses.

The public will have just five days to comment on the document, which incorporates some of the 2005 actions from the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan, now called Whistler 2020.

Some of those actions are:

• ensure 250 units of resident restricted housing are under construction within the next 18 months, beyond what is already committed;

• expand Re-Use It Centre with outdoor covered area;

• establish a plan for expanding the offerings for visiting families that are close to the village core;

• finalize the provincial commitment to financial tools;

• develop a recreation trail vision, and;

• generate revenue via corporate partnerships and/or licensing agreements.

For residents interested in how this year's budget is going to affect their tax bill, Lisa Landry, manager of fiscal planning, explained that there has been, on average a 2.1 per cent increase on residential properties.

The average assessment on all residential properties increased .38 per cent this year. That means if a residential property’s assessment has increased more than .38 per cent the taxes on that property will increase more than 2.1 per cent. If the property assessment went up less than .38 per cent the taxes will increase less than 2.1 per cent.

Landry explained the increase matches the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, and is in line with the municipality's policy of increasing taxes by inflation every year.

The document also details some of the key factors which affect the budget, among them the trends in new construction and hotel tax revenues.

Tables in this year's budget show that while new construction is increasing, the hotel tax revenues are decreasing.

New construction, measured as an increase in assessed value, increased in 2004 to $380 million from roughly $340 million the previous year. In 2000 new construction was calculated at roughly $180 million. That's important because new construction provides additional tax revenues but may also require an increase in services.

On the other hand, 2004 saw a decrease in the hotel tax collected of four per cent over the previous year.

Whistler gets two per cent of the 10 per cent tax charged on hotel rooms throughout B.C.

Hotel tax revenues in Whistler have been decreasing for the past three years, which is significant because the hotel tax pays for things such as village maintenance, the free village shuttle and 14 per cent goes to Tourism Whistler.

The budget also highlights the capital projects for 2005. They include:

• $4.6 million for library design and construction in 2005, with $3.3 million to complete the project in 2006;

• $250,000 to finish Whistler 2020, the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan;

• $890,000 for renovations to municipal hall and to bring it up to code;

• $2 million for reconfiguring Gateway Loop (only $50,000 will be spent this year for the design).

In the future there are a number of other capital projects considered in the budget such as:

• $3.6 million to upgrade the day skier parking lots;

• $1.9 million to replace the fire hall in Alpine;

• $3.8 million to close the landfill and;

• $2.6 million for a permanent transfer station for solid waste.

The budget can be amended at any time throughout the year.

The budget will be available on the municipality's website at www. and a reference copy will be available at the Whistler Public Library, Meadow Park Sports Centre, or Municipal Hall. There will be free black and white photocopies available at the hall too.

There will be a public open house to review the budget on Monday, April 25 from 4 to 7 p.m. in council chambers at Municipal Hall.

All input must be given to the municipality no later than Tuesday, April 26, and council will consider the budget at their regular council meeting on Monday May 2.