City keeps tax hike under 2 per cent

Whitehorse property owners will see the lowest tax increase in a decade this year, but it's coupled with an almost 5 per cent increase in utility charges.

Whitehorse property owners will see the lowest tax increase in a decade this year, but it’s coupled with an almost 5 per cent increase in utility charges.

Mayor Dan Curtis presented the $68 million operations and maintenance budget for 2014 to city council on Monday night. That’s $3 million more than last year’s budget.

It includes a 1.7 per cent increase in property tax, significantly lower than the expected 4.5 per cent hike that many feared was coming.

“It’s the lowest in 10 years. We got it down through lots of hard work with city administration. They did a super diligent job, and we’re very proud of their efforts,” Curtis said.

“I don’t even want to guess how many hours were put into this,” he said.

With taxes and fees taken together, the average Whitehorse homeowner will pay 1.8 per cent more this year, or about $41. The average Yukon business will pay $224 more this year.

To keep the increase below two per cent, Curtis said the city carved $1 million from the provisional operating budget presented in the fall, mostly by kicking costs down the road.

“It was a somewhat painful experience in terms of the time it took and also some of the cuts and creative solutions that had to be done, but we’re really proud of our staff and the people on the ground.

“There are some positions that won’t be filled, but no one will lose their jobs,” Curtis said. Bylaw services and the fire department are two areas Curtis mentioned where expected new hires were deferred.

“We’re fortunate to keep the new transit services going as we said we would.”

But along with a small tax increase, homeowners will pay an extra 4.7 per cent in water and sewer costs. The 2015 provisional budget, also presented on Monday night, contains another 4.7 per cent hike as well.

All of this means that the average Whitehorse family living in a single detached home with water and sewer hook ups will pay roughly $2,296 in taxes and fees this year.

“Water and sewer, we actually mitigated that very well. That increase actually should have come as one hit, because we haven’t had an increase there in three years. But what the council decided was to put that over two years,” Curtis said.

Other fees and service charges are also going up. Parks and cemetery rental fees will rise by 1.5 per cent. Pool rental fees will go up five per cent, and passes for the Canada Games Centre will go up two per cent.

“This is a belt-tightening budget,” Curtis said.

“We are asking our employees to do more, with less. I am aware of how much hard work has been done by administration to balance this budget and maintain services. Council knows it isn’t easy and we appreciate the efforts.”

The city passed its $12.8 million capital budget for 2014 late last year.

Curtis also tabled 2014 to 2016 provisional budgets for public review. This year’s budget received first reading Monday night, with second and third reading slated for Feb. 10.

In the meantime, the public can give its input at a public meeting on Jan. 27.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

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