Whistler is planning to spend more than $12 million in Resort Municipality Initiative funding this year, all with an eye on keeping the resort hopping throughout 2014.
That's the most RMI money that's been budgeted for spending in the resort in the last three years at least — the aim in part to piggyback on the record-breaking success of last year's summer visits and... perhaps break some new records.
It's also far more than the municipality has been given from the province in RMI funding this year — about $5 million more. The balance comes from unspent RMI funds in years past.
"The whole idea behind RMI, of course, is to provide programs and projects for the tourism product," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden after Tuesday's council meeting. "It's a very important source of funding for us and it's directly responsible for a certain percentage of our success. Coming off the busiest summer ever, and looking forward to an extremely busy summer in 2014, these projects and programs are very important to us."
Wilhelm-Morden was speaking after council gave the first three readings to its $78-million-plus bylaws Tuesday, outlining not just the RMI funds, but also some of the finer details of spending at the hall, projecting out for the next five years.
In his presentation to council, director of finance Ken Roggeman highlighted that though the budget predicts five years out, that future makes some assumptions.
"There are risks with looking into the future," Roggeman told council.
Risks such as inflation and rising costs of goods, services and labour, an issue that was tackled in the current budget with $1.5 million in increased labour costs. The budget is subject to changes in provincial policy and budget, to changes in the economy both regional and global, and subject to maintaining efficiencies at the municipality.
After the presentation, the mayor offered the floor to council for questions and was met with silence.
"Nobody's got any questions so thank you very much," she told Roggeman.
With no comments on the public floor, the mayor and staff took time to answer more detailed questions about the biggest RMI spending budget in recent years after the meeting.
"As I've said several times, this is our year of action. There are a number of projects that have come out of the previous plans that we've done, specifically the EPI work that was done, that we will now see coming to fruition this year," Wilhelm-Morden said, highlighting the Economic Partnership Initiative report that had 60-plus recommendations.
The RMI funding — roughly $7 million each year for the past eight years — flows to Whistler from the province as part of a five-year deal from 2012-2016, on the heels of the first five-year agreement.
A spokesperson for the provincial Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, which oversees the RMI funds, was unable to provide answers to Pique questions this week about the program and its future.
Whistler has divided the RMI funding into two categories: Expenditures and Project Funding.
More than $7 million will go to Projects, such as conference centre improvements ($285,491), Olympic Plaza enhancements ($89,500) and Village Squares and Mall rejuvenation ($1.5 million) (see sidebar).
More than $5.1 million is listed under Expenditures, such as the Whistler Olympic Ice Amenity ($127,922), the Village Host program ($253,360) and Village Services ($600,000) (see sidebar).
The RMI funds a portion of those Village Services that are part of the $6.5 million Park, Trails and Village budget. This year the RMI funding for that service has been bumped up by $200,000.
Success brings a cost. Last year's record room nights put added pressure on village services.
The lion's share of the Expenditures program is the $3.16-million Festivals, Events & Animation Program, which delivers free concerts and animation among a host of other things.
The budget shows $35.2 million will be raised in property taxes, $7.6 million in parcel taxes and $19.9 million in fees this year.
More than $13 million will flow from the province in the form of RMI ($9.4 million) and MRDT — two per cent hotel tax ($3.8 million).
ProjectsAlpine Trail Program $272,000Conference Centre Expansion Study $40,000Former Hostel Site Improvements $66,600Rainbow Theatre Renovation $475,000Recreation Trail Program $1,272,561Village Gate and Taxi Loop Enhancement $25,000Whistler Welcome Strategy $150,000
ExpenditureRMI – Management $75,000Resort Collaborative Reporting $50,000Operating Costs – Whistler Olympic Plaza $302,370Visitor Info Centre $150,000Whistler Spirit Program $110,000Arts Council $295,000