Budget preparations underway 

Q3 Financial Report presented to council

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS Preparations for the 2017 budget, which will include details on projects like 2016's new wayfinding signs, is well underway.
  • photo by braden dupuis
  • CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS Preparations for the 2017 budget, which will include details on projects like 2016's new wayfinding signs, is well underway.

With a new year underway, the focus at municipal hall is turning to the upcoming 2017 budget.

At their annual planning retreat back in October, mayor and council established five key focus areas for the next two years, which will be used in the development of the 2017 budget: delivering excellent core services; delivering on existing work plan and project commitments; mitigating the pressures on housing, affordability and transportation that have come with increased visitation; improving environmental performance through more community and stakeholder participation; and expanding wildfire protection activities.

Preliminary budgets will be presented to the municipal finance and audit committee at the beginning of February, and taken to a council workshop shortly thereafter.

A public open house will take place at the end of February.

"The information presented to council at the workshop will go online in advance of the public consultation at the end of February," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, when asked if the public will be able to see the budget before the open house.

"And then there's always another opportunity in the month of March when we're looking at first, second and third readings to have public input as well."

Some of 2017's big-ticket budget items will be related to transportation, housing and FireSmart initiatives, as well as the Gateway Loop Reconstruction project, which was delayed in 2016, the mayor said.

"When we put numbers in the budget, that sets our work plan for the following year, so we do want to hear from members of the public," she added.

"We do want to hear about the artificial turf project, for example, and we do want to hear about the operations of the resort experience and how much funds are expended on keeping our village and our parks pristine."

More details on the budget will be shared when they are available.

Questions or comments about the budget can be made by email (budget@whistler.ca) or phone (604-932-5535).

Meanwhile, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) Q3 financial report was presented to council at its Jan. 10 meeting.

Three quarters of the way through its 2016 fiscal year, RMOW finances were about on par with where they were at the same point last year.

Overall operating revenues were at 99 per cent of the annual budgeted amount, while expenditures were at 75 per cent. At the same point in 2015, budgeted revenues were at 95 per cent while expenditures were at 72 per cent.

"The MRDT, or the hotel tax, is up nearly $800,000 from the same period last year," said director of finance Ken Roggeman in his presentation to council.

"Our permits and fees have increased, and although building-permit revenue is actually a little bit down from last year, our parking revenues have continued to increase, and of course through solid waste just being busier — we've had more volume go through there and also changes to the fee structure — that has led to that increase.

"So revenues overall appear to be quite healthy."

Total operating expenditures at the end of the third quarter were 75 per cent of the annual budget compared to 72 per cent in the prior year. Operating expenditures to the end of the third quarter were $2.9 million greater compared to the end of the same period in 2016.

"It's been a busier year than last year, and I expect that the fourth quarter will be pretty tight," Roggeman said.

"Weather has been cold, there's been more snow around, and all those things do add to our costs, so we should be out soon with the Q4 to see how that looks."

As of September 30, 2016, actual net project expenditures were 42 per cent of total budgeted expenditure for the year.

"That's up from the 14 per cent that we were at midway through the year, and I expect to see quite a bit of a higher percentage by the time we get to the end of Q4," Roggeman said.

A significant amount of project costs are not received until later in the fiscal year, and unforeseen factors may push some budgeted projects to the next fiscal year.

As projects are usually funded from municipal reserves, financial resources not used during the year stay in the reserves until needed, which doesn't directly impact the operating surplus or deficit for future financial planning.

"Overall I think that we are on track with respect to revenues and expenditures," Roggeman said.

Investment holdings of the RMOW at the end of Q3 had a market value of $124,390,572 (compared to $119,558,209 in 2015).

The RMOW uses its investments to earn income on cash that is not currently required for operations, projects or capital purposes.

Investment income at the end of Q3 was $2,033,376 (unaudited) — 93 per cent of the total budgeted investment income for the year and an overall annualized return of about 2.5 per cent on the average monthly investment balances.

Most investment income is allocated to reserves to fund future expenditures with the remainder allocated to operations throughout the year.

The full report will be posted online at www.whistler.ca/municipal-gov/budget-taxes/financial-plans-reports.


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