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Pique'n'yer interest

Reality sets in

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This week heralds the opening of the 2010 Paralympic Games, which are a far bigger deal than most people acknowledge and should really be embraced by all - broadcasters included - as much as the Olympics. After all, sports is all about character, the struggle to be your best so that on one golden day you have a chance to be The Best - and nobody knows struggle better than our Paralympians.

After that it's a long road back to reality for Whistler, albeit with a few happy diversions along the way like the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Reality sets in

Festival.

As a community we elected a slate of councillors that pledged to get our municipal finances under control - wages, staff levels, operating costs - once the Olympics were over. With property taxes due in June every resident will be painfully reminded of that pledge and we're going to expect to see real progress on that front before municipal elections roll around again in 2011. That gives us about a year and a half to get our house in order.

It's not going to be easy. Whistler has relied on development charges and fees to balance its budget in the past, but with the resort nearing build-out that source of revenue is about to dry up.

The obvious thing to do would be to bend a little on our bed unit cap, but there was no support for that during the last election, and for a resort that has invested so heavily in sustainability it's also the very definition of irresponsible - we can't keep growing our way out of our problems and put off that day of reckoning. Besides, the one-time windfall of development money is quickly spent and the community will ultimately be left with more homes to service, more roads to clear, more sewage to treat, and so on.

If we accept the fact that growth will be extremely limited in the future that leaves the municipality with four options - cutting services, cutting wages, cutting staffing levels or cutting all three.

Cutting services is a tough one, because most services are popular and I doubt many people could even agree what services to cut. But cuts are inevitable to all non-essential services if Whistler is ever going to balance its budget, whether that means letting our landscaping go wild or forgoing a few capital projects.

The wages issue is extremely tough, which is why I would never suggest cutting any wages for anybody working for the municipality right now. I would, however, suggest paying any new hires significantly less to reflect the prevailing wages of the resort. We all know (or suspect) that the municipality generally pays the highest wages and benefits in the resort, which is already a point of resentment among non-municipal workers, as well as completely unrealistic.

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