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provisional budget

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Whistler taxpayers will face a 1.5 per cent hike in taxes this year under the provisional budget adopted by council this week, as the municipality continues to wean itself from development revenues while taking on the additional costs associated with a growing community. One per cent of the tax increase is to go toward funding the local RCMP detachment, while .5 per cent is earmarked for the municipality’s long term capital program. But while taxes are going up to cover increased municipal costs, the mayor and council say Whistler is getting its long-term financial needs in order. "I’m excited. It’s tied to the 2002 Vision document and our long-term planning," said Mayor Hugh O’Reilly. "It’s taken the municipality to a new level." "It’s the most detailed budget I’ve seen in six years on council and its the earliest we’ve ever seen the capital figures," Councillor Kristi Wells said Monday. "We can see the connection between reserves and investments." Ken Derpak, the municipality’s soon-to-depart director of finance, said the Whistler 2002 document is one of the cornerstones of the new budget. The budget is also influenced by the draft long-term financial plan. O’Reilly said both of those documents, as well as a business plan for the municipality, will be finished this spring. When those three documents are completed the municipality will have a system in place which will provide quarterly reports, allowing the public to track the municipality’s progress. Meanwhile, this year’s provisional budget is the second prepared using the modified budgeting system approved by council in 1997. This system provides incentives to save money and gives department heads greater flexibility in managing their budgets. The key element is the Annual Adjustment Formula, which is based on inflation and population growth and is used to adjust each department’s (with the exception of the RCMP) operating budget. This year’s AAF is predicated on projected natural growth of 5 per cent, which translates to about $310,000 of additional funding for each department. The proposed 1999 operating budget, excluding transfers to other levels of government and sewer, water and solid waste funds, is $21 million. That’s down from last year’s operating budget of $23.4 million. Most of the savings are through greater efficiencies by each department. One of the biggest additions to the municipal operating budget in recent years has been funding for the RCMP. When Whistler’s population topped 5,000 the municipality had to assume the cost of funding the detachment. That cost has been phased in over several years but as of April 1, 1999 Whistler will be funding 100 per cent of the local RCMP detachment. This new cost coincide with the federal government’s decision to lift the wage freeze on RCMP officers. The net budget for RCMP services this year is $1,699,000, based on expenditures of $2,167,000 and revenues of $468,000. Last year’s net budget for the RCMP was $1,295,000. In 1997 it was just $753,000. While the operating budget is down from last year’s, the proposed capital budget for 1999 is $14.9 million, up from last year’s capital budget of $11.3 million. Highlights of this year’s proposed capital budget include: o $900,000 for reconstruction of Lake Placid Road o $1 million for paving day skier lots o $400,000 for a Cheakamus River bridge o $100,000 for a transit service centre o $100,000 for Sundial Crescent reconstruction o $175,000 for lighting in the village and rehabilitation/maintenance programs in the village o $390,000 for Spruce Grove Park o $230,000 for Village North Park o $200,000 for Valley Trail improvements o $100,000 for directional signage o $300,000 for the skateboard park o $250,000 for the conference centre upgrade Wells noted that all the money for reconstruction of Lake Placid Road is included in this year’s budget and is not contingent on federal or provincial cost sharing. Reconstruction of Lake Placid has been in the budget for several years but funding was always on the condition that senior governments shared the cost. Another $575,000 is included in supplementary budget requests this year. Supplemental requests are new programs and/or service level enhancements which are not funded through the AAF. This year’s list of supplemental budget requests includes: o additional funding for the conversion of the public library to a municipal library o expanded environmental consulting services o a Year 2000 compliance audit o transit shelter maintenance o expanded management information services staffing o New Year’s Eve millennium funding o one additional RCMP member o one additional career firefighter and two paid on-call firefighters o funding for Village North maintenance o funding for a stores clerk o transportation planning trigger point development and monitoring o hiring a transportation demand management co-ordinator

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