City taxes rise again

Expect to pay an extra $114 in property taxes and $59 in utility bills next year. Monday, the city unveiled its operating budget for 2010, spelling out four per cent tax hikes for the next three years. The $59.

Expect to pay an extra $114 in property taxes and $59 in utility bills next year.

Monday, the city unveiled its operating budget for 2010, spelling out four per cent tax hikes for the next three years.

The $59.1 million budget details all of the city’s service expenditures and revenues for the upcoming year.

“It’s basically a hold-the-line budget,” said Mayor Bev Buckway.

One of the “main drivers” behind rising taxes are salary and benefit increases for city staff, amounting to about $700,000, said administrative director, Robert Fendrick.

Another culprit is the new public safety building, which requires an additional $386,000 in 2010.

By hiking taxes by four per cent the city will maintain a balanced budget and a promise made in 2008, said Buckway.

That year, following on the heels of two steep tax hikes, the city said it would cap all of its tax increases by four per cent.

The city has seen eight tax increases in the last 10 years.

To keep that promise, the city increased user fees and cut jobs and overtime hours in some departments.

One full-time job at the Canada Games Centre will be lost to attrition and won’t be replaced. Meanwhile, casual employment and overtime in the financial and information services department will be cut back.

These staffing cuts, amounting to $191,000, will help offset the cost of hiring two additional firefighters to fulfill new operating and health standards for the fire department, said Fendrick.

New fees will be tacked on to licensing an unneutered dog or cat; shipping in out-of-city solid waste; dumping appliances that contain Freon; and completing bookings and rentals through the parks department.

The city also announced that, beginning in 2010, people living in country-residential homes will no longer subsidize water and sewer fees for people in the city.

These utility fees will rise 7.2 per cent this year, adding $50.06 to each homeowner’s bill.

The increased cost is a result of “system and labour costs going up,” said Fendrick.

And they’re expected to rise even more in 2011 and 2012 to help offset the cost of the $500 seniors’ utility grants, which will be drawn from water and sewer coffers instead.

Solid waste fees will also go up in 2010. People will pay 10 per cent more to have their garbage hauled away than they did last year, an increase of $8.82.

“In the end, we’ve come up with something that is a compromise,” said Buckway.

“And if we look at what other communities are doing, we’re very fortunate we’re able to keep taxes as low as they are.”

Compared to other cities in Canada, Whitehorse has some of the lowest taxes in the country.

With an average residential assessment of $170,362 and tax bill of $1,446, citizens pay about $1,000 less in taxes than people living in cities like London, Ontario and Laval, Quebec.

This is after the Yukon government’s $500 homeowners’ grant has been subtracted from property taxes.

The lighter tax load also has to do with the fact that people in Whitehorse don’t pay school taxes or police fees.

As part of the 2010 budget, the city also announced $800,000 in community grants to organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club and Raven Recycling.

The city will hold a public feedback session on the operating budget on February 8.

Council settles

on “generic” name

After much debate, city council has decided to name its newest building, the Whitehorse Public Safety Building.

The names of Whitehorse’s first fire chief, Fred Blaker, and former chief Brian Monahan, who’s been called “visionary,” won’t be gracing the side of the building.

Instead, city councillors decided to defuse the “tug-of-war” between supporters of each man’s name by choosing a name that wouldn’t offend anybody.

“I believe naming it the Whitehorse Public Safety Building is the right thing to do,” said Buckway.

“I knew both Brian Monahan and Fred Blaker and this isn’t a pissing match about who we respect most.”

City staff initially suggested naming the building after Fred Blaker, but invited the public to give suggestions.

That’s when submissions poured in for Monahan, who was fire chief from 1989 to 1999.

“It’s a dichotomy we face, if we pick one (of the names over the other) people will be upset by the choice,” said Councillor Doug Graham.

“I’ll vote for the Whitehorse Public Safety Building, even if it’s a bland and generic name.”

Monday evening, Rhonda and Leon Meyn, daughter and son-in-law of the late Monahan, lobbied city councillors to name the building after him.

They read some of the 22 submissions the city received in favour of Monahan, including a letter from past fire marshal Jack Colesworth, who called Monahan a visionary leader.

Rhonda Meyn also criticized the naming process.

“I’m not OK with how the whole issue was handled,” she said.

Monahan didn’t like that the city used Blaker as an example of who the building could be named after in their city advertisements. She was also under the impression the public would have greater influence in naming the building.

“Apparently, being part of city council makes your vote more important.”

Former city councillor Doug Gallup also appeared that night to speak on behalf of Blaker.

Whitehorse will look at using one per cent of the art funding for the building to pay for a “hall of fame” to honour past fire chiefs and city workers.

Councillor Florence Roberts also suggested naming new fire halls after Monahan and Blaker.

Councillor to donate

money to the Sourdough Rendezvous

Councillor Doug Graham will donate $3,450 from his travel budget to help fund the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Society.

This year the society received $7,000 less than they normally do from the city.

The financial hit comes on top of lost funding from Ottawa and less support from Main Street vendors.

Sourdough representatives appeared at city hall last week to ask for a guaranteed yearly donation of $16,000, an amount the group has received since the early ‘90s

Contact Vivian Belik at

vivianb@yukon-news.com

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