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Staffing, transportation top public’s list of concerns over City of Whitehorse budget

Council to vote on moving forward with 2023 operations spending
City of Whitehorse crews continue are seen clearing snow off Pelly Road in Riverdale in 2022. The city’s 2023 operating budget proposes increased winter road maintenance. (Yukon News file)

City of Whitehorse administration is recommending council move forward with the proposed $100.3-million operating budget for 2023.

The recommendation comes following a public input session on the spending plan which also outlines a property tax increase of 3.37 per cent, water and sewer rate hikes of 3.36 per cent and an increase of 6.04 per cent to waste collection.

Those increases translate to an additional $88 on the average homeowner’s tax bill while those on the city’s water and sewer system would see their bills rise to $88.73 each month from the current $85.85. Those on the city’s standard waste collection schedule would pay $14.23 for the service on a monthly basis compared to the $13.42 they pay now.

A report on the input session, presented to council at its March 6 meeting, outlined the concerns of one delegate who spoke on the budget at the session as well as six emails that came in “with multiple comments and suggestions received from residents and organizations.”

The delegate at the session encouraged council to consider further staffing increases as Whitehorse continues to grow.

The city plans include funding for a new senior planner as well as an equity, diversity and culture specialist.

Among the comments the city received on that, one suggested hiring a planner rather than a senior planner, another opposed the addition of both positions and still another proposed that both oversee the work of two city committees.

“Finally, another submission suggested the addition of a new active transportation coordinator position to work on the development and implementation of sustainable mobility goals, aging city infrastructure and future program development focused on active transportation,” Svetlana Erickson, the city’s manager of finance, said in presenting the report to council.

She went on to note the new positions are needed to support the strategic priorities set out by council.

The new senior planner will also focus on the implementation of the Official Community Plan, specifically around housing and land development.

“This position will assist with managing long range planning projects such as the zoning bylaw update, a granular resources study and development master plans,” Erickson said.

“This position will also support operational requirements, such as complex zoning amendments, and participate in the housing and land development advisory committee work.”

Meanwhile, the equity, diversity, and culture specialist will focus on strategic priorities around inclusivity, accessibility and diversity.

“This position will be responsible for evaluating where the city can immediately make changes to ensure that the organization is more representative of the community it represents, but also create an environment that is welcoming for both employees and citizens interacting with the organization,” Erickson said.

A number of written submissions stated support for the budget — specifically where it came to increased winter road maintenance and snow clearing as well as in the creation of two new positions. Another proposed budget cuts, suggesting fees should be reviewed and reduced to 2022 levels.

Others who wrote to the city called for further improvements to winter roads, trail clearing and maintenance for active transportation.

City staff pointed out in the report the city updated its snow and ice control policy in October 2022 with the budget increasing funding for snow and ice control on both roads and active transportation routes.

“The policy updates will be assessed in the summer of 2023 to review their effectiveness and identify other opportunities for improvement, including a potential review of ways to enhance the interconnectedness of active transportation routes,” Erickson said. Erickson acknowledged the budget doesn’t include winter maintenance of the trail along Hamilton Boulevard as it is designated as an out and away trail.

“Should the designation of the trail change, the costs to include this trail for snow and ice control could be assessed and identified through a future budget submission,” she said.

Over the course of the year, the city has a number of maintenance projects planned for a variety of trails, including work to deal with drainage, signage and safety concerns.

The city received a number of other comments deemed as outside the scope of the 2023 operating budget, which Erickson said “will be routed appropriately for potential future attention.”

Among them were suggestions the city should provide funding to replace or upgrade aging community rinks, implement a curbside recycling program and build a public washroom downtown. Those ideas would be considerations for a future capital budget.

Another submission called for the city to address increased vandalism in the community, which the city labelled as a suggestion for ongoing consideration.

The recommendation was then brought forward that council move on to the final two readings of the budget bylaw and accompanying tax levy bylaw.

Council will vote whether to move forward with the two bylaws at its March 13 meeting.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at

Stephanie Waddell

About the Author: Stephanie Waddell

I joined Black Press in 2019 as a reporter for the Yukon News, becoming editor in February 2023.
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