City’s finances should be far more transparent

City's finances should be far more transparent Thank you to all those who decided to run in the municipal election. Could you please consider the municipal taxpayer over the next few weeks when soliciting votes from the citizens of Whitehorse? As I write

Thank you to all those who decided to run in the municipal election. Could you please consider the municipal taxpayer over the next few weeks when soliciting votes from the citizens of Whitehorse?

As I write, the city has not been able to provide the public with is annual report for 2014. It has belatedly, on Sept. 17, placed its 2014 financial statements on its website, but the lack of the accompanying statistical summary and discussion make it difficult for non-accountants to understand.

It has stated that it should be posted “sometime in September,” which at the time of writing could be more accurately described as “late September.” This should be inexcusable during an election period.

There is a pressing need for an informed discussion on the city’s finances. It has committed itself to a building consolidation project with a 20-year life cycle that will require investment of a majority its reserves, triple its debt and take two years of gas tax funding.

Yet there is no public guidance on where the city’s administration sees the city’s financial balances trending in the next five to 10 years. To compound the matter, nearly a year after it was announced it appears to be a year behind schedule.

From 2005 to 2014, Whitehorse’s population increased by 23 per cent, the city collected more 75 per cent more in property taxes and it now spends 93 per cent more its staff; allowing for inflation of 20 per cent over this period it is apparent that the taxpayer should asking more questions on why the city needs a $32.4 million payroll expense in 2014 that was only $16.8 million in 2005.

When our city talks about new records for transit usage, visits to Canada Games Centre and has staff inspecting our garbage, we should also be told the net cost to the city for providing these. There is no chapter in the city’s sustainability plan that describes the impact of the plan on the taxpayer. It might be an “unsustainable” sustainability plan, as I don’t think the taxpayer will be as accommodating as the plan hopes.

I do not oppose tax increases that are necessary and explained. I believe the city has a role in providing some of its existing services, and I do not oppose the building consolidation project on the premise it will lead to net cost savings over time. When provided, I have found the city’s financial information to be both comprehensive and informative. I do take exception, however, to continued tax increases and spending being undertaken with a lack of both transparency and accountability.

Until this situation changes, I think it is more than fair for our new mayor and council to say “No.” “No” to a tax increase in 2016, “no” to accepting that it takes nine months to present an annual report to citizens, and a big “no” to assuming any long-term financial commitments without a comprehensive plan.

Failing that, can I pay my 2016 taxes “sometime in July?” If you agree, please make sure your voice is heard in this election.

Philip Fitzgerald

Whitehorse

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