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Whistler's 2021 tax bylaws get first readings

Budget amendment shifts spending for five projects
a-LSP
Whistler is anticipating another surge of visitors this summer, and a budget amendment bylaw given first readings on April 20 will help the municipality prepare.

Whistler council gave first three readings to a bylaw that will enable a 1.08-per-cent tax increase in 2021 at its April 20 meeting.

There is no increase to sewer and water parcel fees this year.

The modest increase was settled on after council reconsidered an initial 4.89-per-cent increase in light of COVID-19 last year—but it will have implications for higher tax increases in the years to come.

The change was made possible by higher-than-expected revenues, cuts to expenditures and more than $3 million in COVID-related restart funds from the provincial and federal governments, but it will require a draw on municipal reserves—a move overwhelmingly supported by the community during budget consultations this year—to make it happen.

The 1.08-per-cent increase will equate to an increase of about $16.81 on a property assessed at $1 million.

Council also gave first three readings to a budget amendment bylaw on April 20 that shifts spending for five different projects—one of them being the 2021 Summer Experience Plan.

With visitor volumes expected to meet or exceed levels seen in 2020, the summer ops plan aims to address issues of capacity while maintaining safe COVID-19 protocols and supporting local businesses.

The total value of the 2021 Summer Experience Plan—first outlined in a presentation on March 16—is just over $1.7 million, with about two thirds already covered under the current budget.

A further $464,315 will be covered using the Festivals, Events & Animation budget, leaving $234,678 in new spending.

The RMOW expects much of that to be recovered via the introduction of pay parking at four parks: Rainbow, Lakeside, Alpha and Wayside (rates will be in line with the Day Lots).

Grant funding from the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative could further offset between $200,000 and $250,000, though the RMOW isn’t budgeting for that just yet.

With all of that in mind, the net new spending anticipated in the April 20 budget amendment is just under $5,000.

Other proposals in the 2021 summer plan include regular shuttles to Rainbow Park (with stops at Meadow Park and the Rainbow Lake Trailhead) operating out of the Day Lots; privately-operated bike rentals; expanded bike valet services; enhanced animation to help disperse crowds throughout the valley; and an increase to washroom facilities, garbage and compost bins, food service and park hosts.

The amendment shifts spending for other projects, too: $1 million to upgrade a section of Valley Trail and add lighting in Alta Vista; $165,859 for snowmaking infrastructure in Lost Lake Park (bolstering a $750,000 grant); $20,000 to accommodate staff changes in the planning department; and $100,000 to pay for work tied to two Union of BC Municipalities grant applications (the work will only go ahead if the applications are successful).

Both bylaws will be up for adoption at an upcoming council meeting.