Council is moving ahead with a small tax increase, directing municipal staff on Tuesday to prepare the budget bylaws accordingly.
The budget bylaws will include a 1.7 per cent property tax and solid water fee increase, a 1.5 per cent increase to water parcel tax and user fees and a one per cent increase to sewer parcel tax and user fees.
Though most properties in Whistler have gone up in value this past year, in other words assessed values have increased for the majority of properties, the municipality will take that into account, adjusting the mill rate downwards.
"When we talk about a 1.7 per cent increase in property value taxes, that really is the effective increase that individuals on average would experience," said director of finance Ken Roggeman.
Tuesday marked the initial legislative steps to move forward with the 2015 budget and the Five Year Financial Plan. It will be adopted at a later council meeting.
"We're still pleased and would welcome any feedback that we get from the community," said Roggeman.
He later added: "Overall we feel that we've achieved a relatively balanced approach towards the budget. We've respected the reserve policy work and balances that we've done over the last four to six months. We've tried to consider what is reasonable or affordable for the community. I'm sure nobody likes to know that costs are going up, but at the same time we need to be realistic."
The budget also includes a $27.5 million capital plan, with more than 150 projects. Several multi-million dollar projects skew the numbers — 11 big-ticket projects account for more than half of the budget, or $16 million, such as:
• Village Square and Mall Rejuvenation — This is a $1.37 million project set to be completed in 2015, with a goal of creating an enhanced sense of arrival in the village and improve way-finding. The work this year will focus on portals and banners, wayfinding systems in the village as well as localized improvements such as access from Day Lot 3 to the intersection of Village Gate Boulevard, unique furniture for Village Square and cross walk improvements at Main Street.
• Community Wildfire Protection — Whistler will be funding the bulk of its wildfire protection planning over the coming years. The Five Year Financial Plan pinpoints $1.965 million for wildfire protection until 2019 with $300,000 coming from external funding. The rest will come from municipal reserves. The 2015 budget will see a $685,200 spend. This will include a FireSmart project above Millar's Pond, preparing plans for work in Alpine Meadows next week and Phase II of the Callaghan project on Whistler's boundary will also continue.
• Gateway Loop Reconstruction — There is $2 million preliminary placeholder in the budget for this project, designed to change the flow and feel of Gateway Loop. There will be consultation with stakeholders and the public, which will inform the design of the area. The final budget will be dependent on the outcome of the current public consultation exercise.
• Major Water Infrastructure Renewal Program — Almost $5 million is budgeted this year out of a $13 million renewal program spanning the next five years. The work flows from a 2013 study, which provided a priority list, timeframe and estimated costs to replace Whistler's water infrastructure. This year the work will include an update of the study, as well as tackling the highest priority area for major capital works. This year the work will focus on the Alpine water main replacement.
• Meadow Park Sports Centre — There is a $1.19 million line item in 2015 for upgrades at municipal facilities like Meadow Park. This is out of a five-year budget of $3.6 million. Key projects this year include a pool mechanical room, the design and tendering stage for phase II of the roof replacement and reconstruction of the steam room and sauna.