The 2018-2020 City of Whitehorse operating budget passed its second and third readings during a city council meeting on Feb. 26. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

Bits and budget bites from Whitehorse city council

A bylaw to increase salaries for Whitehorse mayor and council passed third reading on Feb. 26.

The hike will see the mayor’s salary jump from $87,942 to $100,100. Councillor’s salaries will increase from $20,496 to $36,036.

An overall increase was applied to all salaries to keep up with a decision by the Canada Revenue Agency to begin taxing a previously untaxed percentage of an elected official’s salary. An additional increase was made to councillor salaries to keep Whitehorse in line with trends in western municipalities of similar size, where councillors make 36 per cent of the mayor’s wages.

Coun. Samson Hartland, Coun. Dan Boyd and Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu opposed the bylaw.

Though she opposed the increase, Curteanu said she doesn’t disagree that council deserves one. She just hopes that the duties of the position are emphasized to new councillours coming in after this fall’s election.

Hartland said it was a difficult decision and a challenging time to “enrich the remuneration for incoming council.” He said didn’t think it was the right time for an increase, in light of other expenses within the city at the moment.

Coun. Rob Fendrick, who was for the increase, said he agreed that this is bad timing for a pay hike.

“The reason it’s bad timing is it should have been done years ago,” he said. “So this is catch-up.”

Operating budget passes

The 2018 to 2020 operating budget also passed second and third reading on Feb. 26.

Coun. Dan Boyd and Coun. Samson Hartland opposed the bylaw.

Boyd said he was concerned the city was charging more tax than was necessary.

“My number one concern is I think we’re charging more tax than what we need to be charging,” he said before the vote. “The unplanned and unbudgeted stuffing of … our reserves by $700,000 specifically into equipment replacement, in my mind, wasn’t necessary.”

He said it creates an additional tax burden at the moment, and the city could make do with a much lower tax rate.

Hartland said the budget offered a “smorgasbord” of reasons he opposed it. Firstly, he said he had problems with the budget asking the business community to carry an unfair burden when compared to residential rates.

Residential tax rates in the budget are listed at 2.3 per cent while commercial are 4.18 per cent.

Hartland said it was the first time in 10 years there hasn’t been parity between the two.

“We know that we’re making Whitehorse potentially a more expensive place to live in,” he said, noting the city has some of the highest property residential rates and valuations. “So Whitehorse is not getting any cheaper to live in.”

Rental suites amendment

A zoning amendment to allow living suites at two addresses in Copper Ridge passed first reading on Feb. 26.

Even Coun. Dan Boyd, who raised concerns at the Feb. 19 standing committees meeting, voted in favour of the amendment.

Boyd was concerned that if the amendment was approved, it might lead to more applications.

“And then under what grounds would you start saying no?” he asked on Feb. 19.

The amendment would allow self-contained rental units at two homes on North Star Drive, which are currently zoned restricted residential (RR). That designation doesn’t allow suites.

There are roughly 200 RR-zoned properties located in areas of Copper Ridge, Logan, Porter Creek and Whistle Bend.

If this amendment passes second and third reading, it will be the first time an RR-zoned house in Whitehorse has been allowed a living suite.

There will be a public hearing on the amendment at the March 26 council meeting.

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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