Council approves 19 per cent tax increase 

Despite controversy, mayor calls budget process 'the best I have ever seen'

Four former Whistler councillors were among the community members who watched council approve this year's controversial municipal budget on Tuesday night.

And at least one of those former councillors is unhappy with the 19 per cent property tax increase over the next three years.

"The tax increase is unwarranted," stated Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, who sat on council last term.

"I think there were ways council could have given direction to staff to sharpen their pencils, but there were no spending cuts. The mayor was asked to name one budget cut they made in 2009, and he couldn't."
Wilhelm-Morden pointed to the Olympics as one area municpal hall is spending an "enormous amount" on.

Instead of reducing that budget, council has now increased it, she said.

But Nick Davies, who last sat on council in 2005, said this year's budget was probably the best council could do under the circumstances.

"I am sure everybody has views on programs they think are unnecessary that should be cut, or that maybe there are too many staff. But even if we attack those issues, that would not make a substantial difference to the budget," said Davies.

"The budget increase is driven largely by expenses that are out of our control, like the shortfall in the hotel tax and the increase in the transit budget."

Davies added, though, that he was "extremely disappointed" by the level of debate around the council table on Tuesday night.

"This council needs to learn this is not a high school debating club," said Davies.

"We are in the run up to the Olympic Games, and they need to start bringing their discussions to a higher level."

He added that it was obvious the council members argued over the numbers behind closed doors - even though they are not entitled to do so.
The financial plan - which received third reading Tuesday - calls for an 8 per cent property tax increase this year, a seven per cent increase next year, and a four per cent increase in 2011.

In other words, a person with a home assessed at $100,000 will pay $16 more this year, $14 more next year, and $8 more the year after - a total of $38 per $100,000 of assessed value over three years.

When council began the 2009 and 2010 budget process this January, Mayor Ken Melamed acknowledged it would be a challenge. This week, though, Melamed called it the "best process that I have ever seen."


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