City unveils 2015 operating budget

Your typical Whitehorse homeowner will pay another $29 in property taxes next year, provided that the city passes its 2015 operating budget.

Your typical Whitehorse homeowner will pay another $29 in property taxes next year, provided that the city passes its 2015 operating budget.

An average household would pay $2,265 in taxes under the proposed budget, which received first reading at Monday’s council meeting.

The average Whitehorse business, meanwhile, would pay an extra $561 in taxes next year, for a total of $14,580. For both households and businesses, it’s a 1.7 per cent increase.

The city’s 2015 operating budget has grown to $69 million. That’s up $1 million from one year ago.

Water and sewer fees would increase by 6.3 per cent. That means monthly rates would rise from $69 to $73. Last year, those rates rose by 4.7 per cent.

Property taxes are partly being pushed upward by rising electrical costs, which have increased by more than $300,000 this year, said Mayor Dan Curtis.

The city has undergone “belt-tightening” efforts to keep operating costs as low as possible, Curtis said during his budget speech.

About half of the operating budget is funded through taxes, which help pay for everything from roads to recreation facilities to transit.

Curtis said Whitehorse residents pay less tax than those in many other comparable cities. “And our modest tax increase will keep it that way,” he said.

Next year, $12.2 million will be transferred into the city’s reserve funds, compared to the $13.4 million that was earmarked in this year’s budget.

Landfill tipping fees will increase from $87 to $94 per tonne next year, but there is no scheduled increase to curbside waste and organic collection costs.

However, the city also has plans to introduce curbside recycling collection sometime next year. It’s estimated that households would pay $15 a month for this weekly service.

At the same meeting, council unanimously passed second and third reading of its 2015-2018 capital budget.

That budget includes the city’s biggest infrastructure project ever, a $56-million plan over three years to build two new headquarters for its staff.

The city contends that once the buildings are constructed, it’ll save approximately $500,000 per year in energy and leasing costs, which will alleviate pressure on the operating budget.

A citizen survey conducted in June concluded that 74 per cent of respondents “felt they receive fair value for their tax dollars.”

The city is now asking for residents to give their input on the proposed operating budget.

A public input night is scheduled at city hall on Jan. 12, and a report on that input will be presented to council the following week.

Second and third reading of the operating budget will be held on Jan. 26.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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