Opinion » Editorial

Following the money

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The holidays are finally behind us, and all that's left for most of us are the bills for all the fun we have given and received. If you were planning ahead, the bills will not be shocking and will not be more than you expect.

Dealing with them is simply a matter of divvying up the dollars and cents and hoping there is enough to go around for what is important.

But it's not just personal expenditures that are front and centre at this time of year. Local government is getting ready for its budget process and aligning priorities with spending.

(However, 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 — school taxes, for example.)

At this week's council meeting, we heard from the finance department about the last quarterly report of 2016, reporting to the end of September. You may recall that the Council Action Plan made these reports to the community a priority as part of council's push for fiscal responsibility and accountability (the public can weigh in any time at budget@whistler.ca).

According to the report, most line items are about the same or greater than the same period in 2015.

The Q3 review also found that some sources of income were up — noticeably. For example, the Municipal and Regional District Tax, or hotel tax, was up 24 per cent over the previous year (that's about $800,000). Parking revenues were up about $100,000 and user fees increased nearly $1.5 million over the prior year. Over $800,000 of the fee increase amount was due to solid waste tipping fees. Let's not forget, though, that solid waste revenues are offset by the volume, which results in proportional increases to costs.

Like all reports, there are always line items that catch the eye, like the $8,500 budgeted for Whistler's coat of arms as a continuing project cost. Under Resort Experience, $124,080 of the budgeted $150,000 for Village Enhancement had been spent by the end of September.

Under New Projects, we saw that the Meadow Park tennis courts got some upgrades for $81,587 and that $753,772 was spent on parkland acquisition — namely Rainbow Park.

Investment holdings of the municipality at Sept. 30, 2016, had a market value of $124,390,572 (2015 — $119,558,209). Most investment income is allocated to reserves to fund future expenditures with the remainder allocated to operations throughout the year.

And by the end of September, we had spent $96,364 on traffic studies for Traffic Advisory Group.

On Jan. 17 at 5 p.m., the Resort Municipality of Whistler will be hosting a transportation community forum for the public to come have a say on the issue and also look at the options available as we try to deal with this significant problem.

The event, hosted at the Whistler Conference Centre, will present evidence-based research collected over the past year on the use of Whistler's highway, roads, parking and transit outline proposed short-, medium- and long-term action plans to alleviate transportation and parking pressure, and you will get a chance to weigh in on the solutions. (See page 20 for more details.)

Said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden in a release: "Helping people travel to and within Whistler and ensuring they get to where they want to go in a timely matter are high priorities for our community."

Want to see rail travel to Whistler on the table? Then attend the event. Want to see a third lane to alternate traffic into the village from Function Junction? Come to the event. Want to learn more about transit and how it fits into traffic solutions? Then attend.

Like the budget, like local government's efforts to maintain and improve the Whistler community, transportation solutions are up to all residents.

Everyone likes to complain and be a couch general on the issue, but the only real way to create change is to be involved in the process.

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