The Resort Municipality of Whistler's (RMOW) 2016 budget is moving ahead, with the first three readings of the 2016-2020 Five-Year Financial Plan bylaw scheduled for the April 5 council meeting.
The budget proposes a 1.5-per-cent increase to property taxes, a 1.3-per-cent increase to water parcel taxes and user fees and a 1.2-per-cent increase to sewer parcel taxes and fees.
For residential users, the increases equate to an $18 increase per $500,000 of assessed value (based on 2016 property values) and a $10 bump to utility costs.
For businesses, it's a $78 increase in taxes and $10 for utilities.
The 2016 budget also contains a substantial project list, to the tune of $34.5 million divvied up among 165 projects ($13.8 million of that total is carried over from the 2015 budget).
But the biggest chunk of money has been earmarked for water-related projects.
In total, more than $15 million has been set aside for water studies, infrastructure enhancements, flood plain mapping, water quality improvements and more. The total includes annual recurring work like groundwater monitoring and benchmarking with other communities as well as one-time projects.
"It is a lot of work," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, of maintaining Whistler's water supply.
"We have a rather complicated water system composed of reservoirs and wells, and then we have water systems that are completely independent of other systems."
One such system can be found in Emerald Estates. The RMOW has budgeted $2 million in 2017 to go towards upgrading the water quality in Emerald.
But there are plenty of big-ticket items slated for 2016 as well.
The construction of a new Olympic Reservoir on Whistler Mountain will take up $3.5 million in 2016 and another $800,000 in 2017, and the ongoing work on the Alpine Water Main Replacement Project has another $6 million budgeted for it in 2016.
"Another thing that's coming up will be the replacement of the Alta Vista water mains," the mayor said, noting that preliminary work on that project will begin in 2017.
"Each of the older neighbourhoods has issues with old or aging water mains."
But the RMOW takes the long view when planning for water.
"We've actually got a long-term water supply plan update scheduled for 2019, so we do slot all of this work in over the course of the five-year budget," Wilhelm-Morden said.
Other big projects include $250,000 for flood protection in the Tapley's neighbourhood and $426,000 for an altitude control valve and kiosk at one of the Alpine reservoirs, which will help control the levels of the reservoirs.
The reservoirs currently can't be filled by Whistler's main water supply — 21 Mile Creek — a problem this project aims to address.
"We've got 21 Mile Creek as the main source of water for most of the valley, but we ran into some problems with it last year because of the hot, dry summer and the low snowpack, so we're looking at it," said Wilhelm-Morden.
"It is something that our staff is looking at regularly, and we will be receiving updates of course at council with how we're doing."
More information about the budget process, including the complete proposed project list, can be found at www.whistler.ca/municipal-gov/budget-taxes/resort-municipality-whistler-budget.
Budget questions or feedback can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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