Whistlerites could be headed for another modest tax increase.
The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is proposing a 1.5-per-cent increase to property value taxes (down slightly from a 1.7-per-cent bump in 2015), a 1.3-per-cent increase to water parcel taxes (1.5 per cent in 2015) and fees and a 1.2-per-cent increase to sewer and parcel taxes and fees (one per cent in 2015) in its 2016 budget.
There will be no change to solid waste user fees.
"That would give us a balanced budget," said manager of finance Ken Roggeman in a media briefing ahead of a public information session regarding the budget, Feb.23.
"We'd be continuing to contribute to our reserves in a consistent manner, it would leave us in a relatively good position moving on into the future beyond 2016, and it maintains the levels of service that we have."
This would be the second tax increase in as many years following three years of zero increases.
About 25 people showed up for the information session, which included presentations from Roggeman and CAO Mike Furey, as well as opportunities to talk with municipal staff.
The municipal budget is a constant process, Furey said, informed by everything from surveys and open houses to the 15 committees of council.
"Ours is a year round engagement, very much still focused on evidence-based decision making," Furey said at the briefing. "It's sort of like a continuous loop almost."
The draft budget recommendations will come to council at the March 15 meeting, with first three readings of the 5-Year Financial Plan Bylaw scheduled for April 5.
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Included in this year's budget are 165 projects carrying a potential total price tag of $34.5 million (which includes up to $13.8 million left over from 2015's project budget). Most of the money to pay for them will come from reserves.
"That's the biggest potential spend that we've seen in a long time, and it's really just sometimes the timing of things," said acting mayor John Grills, noting that the second phase of the Alpine Water Main Replacement Project and the replacement of Olympic Reservoir will both take place this year, driving up the price tag.
"There's some fairly big projects," he said. "So we could have a lot of construction around the village this year, and obviously (we're) planning that and organizing that so the town also keeps moving."
Grills said he takes the lower turnout at budget info sessions in recent years as a sign that things are going well.
"They're fairly happy right now with the work we're doing," he said.
"Certainly a few years ago when people were less happy it was very well attended."
The full list of budgeted projects can be found on the RMOW's website. Some notable items include:
GATEWAY LOOP RECONSTRUCTION — $2.4 million
An overhaul of Whistler's Gateway Loop has been in the works for some time. The project includes the design, contract preparation and construction. The amount budgeted (which includes another $900,000 in 2017) includes all surface and sub-surface works, landscaping and a shelter structure.
MEADOW PARK SPORTS CENTRE UPGRADES — $2.4 million
Key projects on slate for the Meadow Park Sports Centre include phase two of the roof replacement, replacing hot tub pumps and filters, reconstruction of the steam room, re-flooring of the fitness centre's stretching area and renovating the North Shore Credit Union Room. The RMOW has also budgeted $132,693 in 2016 to be used to purchase and upgrade equipment for the centre.
NEW NESTERS WASTE DEPOT SITE — $1.2 million
The money will be used to design and construct a new waste management depot at the former Fortis Gas site on Nesters Road.
TAPLEY'S FLOOD CONTROL — $250,000
After studying three different options for mitigating flooding in the Tapley's neighbourhood, council endorsed creating a flood channel on the west side of the railway tracks that would allow flood waters to bypass the neighbourhood. The bypass will be constructed this year. Some further study will also be done to determine the scope of potential larger-scale changes.
TRAIN WRECK PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE — $176,000
Tendering for construction of the proposed suspension bridge will happen early in the year, with construction planned for spring and summer.
ARTIFICIAL TURF FIELD — $150,000
Building on its 2015 Whistler Multi Use Facility Investigative Study, the money budgeted this year will be used for a facility needs assessment, business case analysis and site selection process. The RMOW has also budgeted $3.35 million for the project in 2017.
TRAFFIC STUDIES — $120,000
The RMOW has set aside $120,000 to update traffic studies for the reactivated Transportation Advisory Group. The studies will aim to solve traffic problems in Whistler Village and between Whistler and Vancouver.
GENERAL PARKS IMPROVEMENTS — $200,000
Projects and improvements proposed for Whistler's parks over the next two years include: replacing a dock on Alta Lake, buying and installing bike racks, tennis court fence repairs, playground replacement at Eva and a slide replacement at Balsam, improvements to the portage on the River of Golden Dreams and more.
RECREATION TRAIL PROGRAM — $80,000
Projects for 2016 include (but are not limited to): River Runs Through It structure repairs, reconstruction and signing of Blueberry Park hiking trail, Rainbow Falls loop trail improvements, surface improvements for trails around Lost Lake, potential layout for a recreation trail at Jane Lakes.
MAY LONG WEEKEND — $30,000
The RMOW has dedicated $30,000 to the May Long Weekend Committee to be used to enhance police, fire and bylaw patrols, as well as hire private security to help tame the infamous weekend.
UPRADES TO MAURY YOUNG ARTS CENTRE — $145,000
Though it was officially renamed the Maury Young Arts Centre in November, the signage still says Millennium Place. That will change in 2016, as the RMOW has budgeted $35,000 for signage upgrades. Another $110,000 has been earmarked for general improvements to the centre, including new flooring.
VARIOUS WATER PROJECTS
A good chunk of money has been set aside for water-related projects, including $6 million to complete the Alpine Water Main Replacement Project, $3.5 million to replace the Olympic Reservoir, $849,000 for a second water well in Rainbow Park and $426,000 for the installation of an altitude control valve and kiosk at the Alpine reservoir. Future water work includes replacement of AC pipe in White Gold and replacing old piping in Emerald.