Whitehorse property owners will see a difference on their 2021 property tax bills after Whitehorse city council passed third reading on the $88-million operating budget and accompanying tax rates and fees.
Property taxes will rise by 0.34 per cent, well below the 2.2 per cent increase that had originally been projected in 2020 for the 2021 year.
The 0.34 per cent increase translates to an average tax bill of $2,544 or $9 more than the average 2020 property tax bill.
Meanwhile, water and sewer fees will remain at $85.85 each month with waste/compost collection fees rising 2.76 per cent to $12.95 each month.
Coun. Steve Roddick was the only member of council to register a vote against any of the changes, voting against third reading of the property tax changes, though he voted in favour of the overall budget and the fees.
As Roddick explained, his vote against the taxes stems from a concern over the classifications that govern the tax rates.
He pointed out that the three classifications in place — residential, non-residential and agricultural — haven’t changed since the City of Whitehorse was incorporated in 1950.
Other jurisdictions have a number of classifications that better reflect the variety of uses for land, he said, questioning why Whitehorse doesn’t.
“We need to take a harder look (at this),” he said, noting his vote against the tax increase was aimed at raising and drawing attention to the issue of classification.
Other council members reflected on the budget, noting the efforts that went into keeping the tax increase as low as possible, given the economic impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought.
Coun. Laura Cabott commented that the city would be able to maintain the services it currently provides, though it will not be able to provide any new or additional services.
It’s significant, she said, that no services would have to be cut.
As Mayor Dan Curtis stated in his budget speech in January: “We know that residents and businesses have suffered in 2020, and we have worked very hard to keep our property taxes low in an attempt to alleviate some of that financial hardship.”
Both Curtis and Coun. Jan Stick highlighted funding from the federal and territorial governments aimed at assisting municipalities with lost revenue due to the pandemic. For Whitehorse that meant $1.6 million coming into the city.
“I think Whitehorse is very fortunate to be in this position,” Stick said.
Curtis also highlighted the city’s growth as a factor in this year’s lower tax rate, noting the impact of services being distributed over a larger population. The most recent population stats show Whitehorse has a population of 30,025 as of March 2020. That compares with a population of 29,080 a year earlier.
With the operating budget and corresponding tax rates and fees now adopted, the city can begin preparing tax notices.
Under territorial legislation, tax notices must be sent out no later than May 15 with taxes due by July 2.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org