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Whistler Annual Report details challenging 2020

Draft report available for comment; SOFI to be presented July 20
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Whistler's 2020 Annual Report is now online, and details the challenges posed by COVID last year.

Whistler’s 2020 Annual Report and 2021 Corporate Plan are now available for review and comment at whistler.ca.

The documents detail a challenging-but-productive 2020, as well as the Resort Municipality of Whistler’s (RMOW) audited 2020 financial statements.

“Overall 2020 was clearly a challenging year, to which we believe the RMOW rose very well,” said director of finance Carlee Price in a presentation to council on July 6.

The RMOW had $46 million in cash at the end of 2020, a figure Price called “unusually high” (especially compared to the $9.6 million listed at the end of 2019), and which she attributed to the timing of the school tax.

“School tax was due and payable early in 2021; the cash to cover that expenditure was on the balance sheet at the end of 2020,” Price said.

“That amount in particular is higher by $26.7 million, relative to where it otherwise would have been.”

Total reserve balances reached $92.1 million in 2020 (up slightly from $91.9 million), while the RMOW’s long-term debt balance climbed to $42.6 million (up from $40 million in 2019).

There was a $4 million decline in revenue in 2020, while expenditures were down sharply as well (from $97.3 million in 2019 to $88.7 million in 2020).

“This primarily had to do with cuts to the Festivals, Events and Animation program, in line with the decline in visitation in 2020, and also reflects a declining MRDT, or hotel tax revenue, coming into the RMOW,” Price said.

The RMOW’s 2020 Statements of Financial Information report, which details the top earners at municipal hall as well as payments to suppliers, will be presented at the July 20 council meeting.

Despite the challenging conditions presented in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Annual Report details some significant accomplishments, noted chief administrative officer Virginia Cullen, including the adoption of the updated Official Community Plan, the introduction of the Big Moves Strategy on Climate Action, progress on Cheakamus Crossing Phase 2, the completion of new Whistler Housing Authority builds (four new buildings in four years), and more.

This year’s Annual Report adds a new focus area for council to go along with the staples of housing, climate action and community balance: pandemic recovery.

The RMOW has been in “various phases of response and recovery” throughout the last 16 months of the pandemic, Cullen said, adding that the municipality lead and supported many areas outside of its typical purview, including relocating the food bank to the Conference Centre, supporting the operation of vaccine clinics, enabling businesses to expand their patios and looking at new ways to manage parks and village spaces.

A dedicated group of Whistlerites helped guide the process through the RMOW’s Recovery Working Group, Cullen said.

“The pandemic really emphasized the need for a balanced approach to our success,” she said.

“How do we land in a place where the needs of the community, economy and the environment are considered together, and how do we ensure a strategic recovery? These are all things that have been considered as part of the working group.”

With provincial health guidelines loosening on July 1, the RMOW has now shifted more into recovery mode, Cullen added.

Some of the municipality’s “areas of emphasis” include an increased commitment to diversity, quality versus quantity in tourism, and promoting cooperation within Whistler, “so that we’re not duplicating work amongst ourselves, and we’re finding important synergies amongst each other to help accelerate progress,” she said.

“Or in other words, we’re not working together as a bunch of individuals, we’re actually working together as partners and as a team. All of this is done with a continual improvement of building off previous success, so that we do not try and reinvent the wheel.”

Find the Annual Report at www.whistler.ca/municipal-gov/budget-taxes/financial-plans-reports, and submit comments to corporate@whistler.ca before 4 p.m. on July 20.