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Municipality rushing to finalize 2010 budget

Public has two weeks to comment on proposed seven per cent tax increase



With the Winter Olympics breathing down Whistler's back, the mayor and six councillors are rushing to finalize the 2010 budget.

Council has already held several meetings to look over the lengthy financial document and they hope to give the budget first, second and third reading during their public meeting on Dec. 1.

Whistler homeowners can expect a seven per cent property tax hike this year.

In other words, a home assessed at $100,000 will likely cost $14 more this year in property taxes, and a home assessed at $500,000 will likely cost $70 more this year in property taxes.

"Basically we are following through with last year's plan, with only some minor changes," Mayor Ken Melamed said on Tuesday.

"We developed those priorities last year. Unless council decides to add something, nothing has changed from our budget consultation last year."

Last spring, council approved a two-year budget, for 2009 and 2010, in anticipation of how busy municipal staff would be this year with the Olympics. The financial document pinned tax increases at eight per cent in 2009 and seven per cent in 2010. Another four per cent increase is expected in 2011.

Melamed said council will likely stick with those forecasted numbers, although they are currently collecting information to make sure all their information is up to date.

Also, starting today, members of the community can submit their comments on the budget at the municipality's online forum on or by using the paper feedback forums available at municipal hall's front desk. Questions can also be e-mailed to Ken Roggeman, the municipality's manager of fiscal planning, at .

The municipality will collect public feedback until Thursday, Nov. 26.

"We engaged in the biggest-ever engagement process last year to try and give us enough time and space to do a two-year budget, with an understanding that there might be some tweaks and adjustments," said Melamed.

"We have a better sense now of the actual revenues versus the projections, and it is just a matter of putting that all into a spreadsheet and coming up with some final direction, which council will do."

The mayor said he was originally hoping last year's projections would have been conservative and council would be able to set property taxes below seven per cent in 2010.

But after pushing pay parking back until this month, following the public outcry, the municipality's forecasts are off.

"That was one of the reasons I had concerns about moving away from pay parking back in August," said Melamed. "In August, I already had a sense that we might not be able to accomplish any reduction of the proposed tax increase."

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