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muni funding

Whistler stands to lose $303,000 through reductions in provincial transfers and restructuring, according to an estimate from Municipal Affairs Minister Dan Miller. But what will likely be a bigger burden on the municipal budget is additional costs provincial programs and policies have heaped on local governments. "No question," the municipality will be paying for more than it has in the past, Finance Director Ken Derpak said this week. "We’re just wrestling with that right now." "The big one for us is going to be the RCMP." One of the areas the province has cut back or reduced — Derpak says it’s not clear yet whether there will be some money available — is in helping municipalities assume the cost of local police service. Once a municipality’s population exceeds 5,000 financial responsibility for policing is transferred from the province to the municipality. Although Whistler’s population exceeded 5,000 a few years ago officially the population doesn’t pass 5,000 until April when the figures from last year’s census are released. At that time Whistler will have to start paying for its RCMP force, and there likely won’t be much provincial money to help with the transition. The RCMP is the most immediate additional cost being passed on to the municipality, but the full impact of other provincial initiatives, such as the solid waste management plan, won’t be known for some time. For example, the composting portion of the solid waste management plan — one of the largest components of the plan for Whistler — has yet to be determined. As well, it’s expected the province will have less money for future infrastructure programs, such as additional upgrades of the municipal sewage plant. In the long term, native land claim settlements could also have an impact on municipal finances. With the municipality facing additional expenses, and its 1997 budget not increasing significantly from last year, Derpak says some programs will likely have to be cut. Others may be delayed a year or two. Exactly what programs will be affected is something Derpak and municipal staff are working on right now in preparation for the Jan. 20 presentation of the provisional budget. Meanwhile, a letter from Miller to Whistler council dated Nov. 26 estimated the net reduction in transfers to Whistler will be $303,032. The bulk of the reduction is a $322,032 cut to the municipal general grant Whistler has received in the past. Whistler’s basic municipal grant will also be reduced by $60,000. Both grants come from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. A $1,000 emergency planning grant from the Attorney General’s ministry will also be cut. However, Whistler will qualify for $80,000 from the new Small Communities Protection fund. The $18.3 million fund was set up to help "support smaller communities and ensure those with under 5,000 residents face no reduction in provincial funding." The province is not touching funds for BC Transit, either capital or operating.