RMOW finances holding steady 

Municipality finished 2007 in financially strong position, but wary of future budgets

There hasn’t been a time in its history when the Resort Municipality of Whistler has been committed to so many large capital projects or when there was so much uncertainty over the long-term financial impacts of the limits placed on development.

The good news is that the municipal balance sheet for 2007, presented at the Aug. 25 special council meeting, shows Whistler’s equity position as strong — despite the need to contend with large capital projects like the sewage treatment plant upgrade and compost facility, and a drop in revenues through changes to the Class 1/6 property tax classification.

The RMOW’s financial equity at the end of 2007 was $57,271,216, down approximately $5.7 million from the previous year. Overall, investment in tangible capital assets is up $46 million to $285 million.

Part of the discrepancy in equity comes from the fact that some capital projects are ongoing, such as Cheakamus Crossing, the athletes’ village neighbourhood — it’s difficult to budget precisely when contributions and expenses related to projects occur over several fiscal years.

The other part of the discrepancy is the result of lower revenues, combined with higher municipal wages and operating costs.

Some capital projects cost less than anticipated, or were delayed through 2008. Lisa Landry, general manager of economic viability for the RMOW, says the 2007 Annual Report includes several projects budgeted for 2007 but not completed by Dec. 31. As a result there was a discrepancy between actual expenditures and what was budgeted at the start of the year.

For example, the municipality expected to complete a $3.5 million takeover of Maurice Young Millennium Place in 2007 and included that as an expenditure in the budget. Negotiations with stakeholders took longer than expected, however, and the closing date has been delayed at least until the end of this month, September 2008. In the meantime the money has remained in the capital reserve fund.

“I’m anticipating that capital reserves will go down in 2008, but we will be doing that analysis in September for the third quarter after we’ve had a chance to sit down with all the departments and review our capital expenses to date and for next year,” she said.

Overall, municipal expenditures for 2007 were budgeted at $142,184,432, but came in considerably lower at $101,511,634.

Municipal revenues in 2007 also fell short of what was budgeted, with $93,528,861 in actual revenues in 2007 collected compared to an expected $111,845,358 — despite about half a year of receiving an additional four per cent of the hotel tax.

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