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Olympic spending under the budget microscope

VANOC provides half 2006 RMOW Olympic funds

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The municipality is budgeting for more than $2 million in Olympic-related spending this year – half to be funded from external sources, the other half from municipal coffers.

For the first time since it signed on as a partner in the Games, the Resort Municipality of Whistler has broken out some of the costs associated with preparing for the Games in its annual budget.

The draft Five Year Financial Plan, which was released to the public on Friday, April 21, shows specific Olympic spending for the past two years, as well as the projected spending on the Olympics until 2010. It is important to note, however, that while the figures show the work being done by the municipality’s new Olympic division, headed up by former administrator Jim Godfrey, they do not take into account all the staff time and resources for Olympic-related planning.

Despite not painting a complete picture of Whistler’s Olympic spending, the numbers are a welcome addition to the Five Year Plan for local resident Brian Buchholz, who has been asking council for the Olympic bottom line for several months.

Still, he was perplexed to see costs, ultimately paid for by Whistler taxpayers, associated with the Games.

"Unless I’m misunderstanding, what (the past) council has said and what the (previous) mayor has said, that the Olympics won’t cost the taxpayers of Whistler money, I don’t understand," said Buchholz. "The numbers in and of themselves don’t shock or alarm me, other than the fact that they should say zeroes across the board."

When Whistler signed on as a partner for the Games, council of the day agreed that they would not raise taxes to help pay for hosting the Games. They did not say the Games would not cost Whistler money. This year taxes are increasing at the rate of inflation.

In 2006 the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games will provide $1 million in external funding to move along the athlete’s village project and the Paralympic arena.

Another $1 million must be funded out of the municipality’s pockets.

Almost half of that money ($490,000) is going to the 2010 Games Office – a new division within the municipality. The Games Office includes the salaries for Jim Godfrey, Whistler’s executive director for the Games, and a newly created 2010 position – the Games Office Supervisor. That position has not yet been filled. It also includes administration support for both and expenses.

Other 2006 expenditures include the Torino Olympics, held in February this year.

The municipality gave $125,000 to the B.C.-Canada House in Torino and paid $32,500 for council and staff’s fact-finding mission there.

The rest of the 2006 Olympic expenditures are $50,000 for Celebration 2010, the annual cultural celebrations held in February, with $140,000 earmarked for more event support. The municipality is also planning to put aside $225,000 into a special reserve for spending in 2010.

The bulk of the municipality’s Olympic spending will be funded by Whistler’s hotel tax – the money collected from the additional tax on hotel rooms in the resort. A portion will also come from the general fund.

According to the projections for the next five years, the municipality will have spent almost $6 million on the Olympics, $4.3 million of which is slated to be coming from the increasingly smaller hotel tax revenues. Almost $2 million of that is slated to go into event support reserves to be used in 2010.

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