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Muni Hall spent more than it received in 2008

Despite negative balance sheet, the municipality’s financial equity grew

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It is no secret that 2008 was a tough year for accountants at Municipal Hall.

At a time when the municipality was prepping for the 2010 Games with several large capital projects, changes to the province's revenue sharing agreement, rising labour costs, and limited growth further strained coffers. As a result, for the first time in 20 years, council decided to increase property taxes above the rate of inflation.

The municipality's 2008 Annual Report, released Tuesday afternoon, reflects these struggles.

While the Resort Municipality of Whistler's overall financial position increased 10 per cent from $343 million in 2007 to $383 million in 2008, the financial statements also show the municipality spent more money than it received last year.

The RMOW shelled out $107 million but only brought in $94 million, leading to an imbalance of $12.6 million. The largest spending increase was on capital expenditures.

The municipality spent $54 million last year on seven major capital projects, among other things, including the Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood, the High Performance Centre, the Public Library, Celebration Plaza, upgrades to the day skier parking lots, the Fitzsimmons Creek debris barrier and water system upgrades.

The balance sheet also shows the municipality spent less money on capital expenditures than originally predicted - but Lisa Landry from the municipality explained most of that $22 million decrease was because several projects weren't wrapped up as soon as expected.

"We have saved money here and there with commodity prices, but the majority is the fact that projects take longer than anticipated," said Landry.

Despite the negative balance - the municipality's equity went up.

The report shows the financial equity also jumped about 10 per cent from $97.6 million in 2007 to $107.8 million in 2008.

Also, the municipality's investments also brought in more money than expected last year, despite the fact the global recession hit Wall Street last Fall. To this, Landry said: "Perhaps we had a more pessimistic view of where the investments were going to be."

Mayor Ken Melamed opened the report with a positive note that highlighted some of the municipality's projects in 2008 instead of its negative balance sheet.

"2008 was a busy and productive year in Whistler with significant progress on a variety of majority projects, the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games just around the corner and many other initiative underway to help build onwards our community's future," wrote the mayor.

Some projects he outlined included preparations for the Winter Games, the Cheakamus Community Forest, and the Whistler Centre for Sustainability.

The report also outlined the municipal objectives for 2009 and 2010.

Beyond hosting the Games, the municipality also plans to implement a retail strategy, and reviewing the Official Community Plan in 2010.

For more information, you can find the 2008 Annual report on the municpality's website at www.whistler.ca.

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