‘Conspiracy of events’ could mean tax increases 

Council calls on community for feedback on preliminary 2008 budget

click to enlarge Budget Woes Rising construction costs, such as the cost of completing the library, are one of the reasons that Council is considering a tax increase for next year. Photo by Maureen Provencal.
  • Budget Woes Rising construction costs, such as the cost of completing the library, are one of the reasons that Council is considering a tax increase for next year. Photo by Maureen Provencal.

If council continues with business as usual next year, Whistler residents would see a 14.5 per cent increase in property taxes.

But it doesn’t want to do that.

That’s why staff is considering implementing several cost cutting measures to reduce the tax impact to property owners. Even with those cost cutting measures, however, council is still faced with an 8.5 per cent tax increase.

It is now looking at ways to reduce that even further and wants to hear from the community on how to go about doing that.

“Clearly council is saying the projected tax increases are not acceptable,” said Mayor Ken Melamed, as staff updated council on the 2008 budget process Monday.

An 8.5 per cent tax increase would translate to a $126 increase on a tax bill for a residential property assessed at $750,000. The total municipal portion of the tax bill for that property would come in at $1,612.

Likewise, a commercial property assessed at $429,500 would see its taxes go up by $235 for a total municipal tax bill of $3,009.

All taxes by other agencies, like provincial school taxes, are not determined until the spring.

Lisa Landry, the municipality’s manager of fiscal planning, outlined three specific factors that have caused the pressures on the 2008 budget.

The biggest hit has come from the provincial government’s change to the Class 1/6 strata hotel classification. After several years of uncertainty, the province handed down its decision in the spring, which essentially allows some strata hotels to pay less in taxes.

“Now we know what’s happening,” said Councillor Bob Lorriman, referring to the years of uncertainty. “It’s probably the worst case scenario.”

Though the final numbers won’t be in until later this year staff estimate the loss to be in the range of $1.8 million to $2.5 million, or roughly seven to 10 per cent of the municipality’s total tax revenue.

Compounding this hit are rising labour costs. Wage increases have outpaced general inflation rates recently and as more people begin to leave the workforce than enter it, that trend is not likely to reverse any time soon.

Staff has estimated a $1 million impact to the municipal budget for labour cost increases.

The third major issue playing a role in the 2008 budget is the change in operations for Whistler’s utilities, specifically the new waste transfer station and the new composting facility. Staff anticipates the nature and costs associated with these new facilities will lead to increases in operating costs.

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