Councillor questions city’s about face

Ranj Pillai was the only councillor to vote against the city's operation and maintenance budget when it was passed this spring. "I wasn't comfortable with the tax increase," he said.

Ranj Pillai was the only councillor to vote against the city’s operation and maintenance budget when it was passed this spring.

“I wasn’t comfortable with the tax increase,” he said.

“I wanted to dig deeper and look for increased savings.”

But Pillai was told that was impossible. If the city cut operations and maintenance costs, it wouldn’t be able to supply the same services, he was told.

Six months later, the city has found itself $800,000 in the hole.

So it has dug deeper to increase savings by cutting operations and maintenance costs.

And now, Pillai is being told that it won’t impact services, after all.

“So, six months ago the city said it couldn’t reduce taxes, and now it’s making up an $800,000 shortfall,” he said.

“So the obvious question is, why, during the budget process, when I asked if there was room to reduce taxes, was I told the city wouldn’t be able to supply the same services, and now they’re doing it?”

Every $250,000 the city spends in operation and maintenance costs is the equivalent of a one per cent tax increase, said Pillai. So, every $250,000 the city saves in operation and maintenance costs should result in a one per cent tax decrease.

Now, after watching as the city cut $800,000 out of its budget to pull itself out of the hole, Pillai has some questions.

“The city just came up with more than a one per cent tax decrease, after saying this was impossible six months ago, so why, as a taxpayer, should I trust the system?” he said.

“Where’s the accountability?”

To make up the missing money, the city is cutting one per cent in salary costs. This affects things like the amount acting officials make when they step up to fill vacancies.

The city is also axing some capital projects, including design work in Hillcrest and $225,000 in landscaping and community upgrades in Takhini.

There are bigger problems than just correcting this year’s shortfall, said Pillai, who is worried about the impact these capital cuts will have on Whitehorse communities.

“Senior management has said this kind of thing happens from time to time,” he said.

“Well, if this is a trend, then that’s a problem.”

At council this week, Pillai came up with a plan.

He wants a third party to come in and scrutinize the city’s spending.

This isn’t just an audit, said Pillai.

“It would be an effectiveness and efficiency analysis.”

City councillors were just informed of the $800,000 budget shortfall a few weeks ago.

Pillai wants to know why it wasn’t made public earlier.

And he wants to know why the city staff responsible for the huge cost overruns weren’t “walked to the front door.”

“These are tough questions, and I feel bad asking them,” said Pillai.

“But that’s why we’re elected.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at gkeevil@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

Northwestel says it is investigating into the cause of the total communications blackout throughout the territory after a power failure in Whitehorse on Wednesday night.
Internet outage prompts criticism on Dempster fibre project delays

The Liberals responded that they have proceeded cautiously to avoid high costs.

A motorcycle with driver pulled over on the right side of the North Klondike Highway whose speed was locked in at 171 kilometres per hour. (Courtesy/Yukon RCMP)
Patrols of Yukon highways find poorly-secured loads, intoxicated drivers

The ongoing patrols which police call ‘Operation Cooridor’ is mainly focused on commercial vehicles.

Awaken Festival organizers Meredith Pritchard, Colin Wolf, Martin Nishikawa inside the Old Firehall in Whitehorse on May 11. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Performing arts fest plans to awaken artistic talent in Whitehorse and the rural North

‘A value of ours is to make theatre as accessible as possible.’

April Mikkelsen tosses a disc during a ladies only disc golf tournament at Solstice DiscGolfPark on May 8. John Tonin/Yukon News
Yukon sees its first-ever women’s disc golf tournament

The Professional Disc Golf Assocation had a global women’s event last weekend. In the Yukon, a women’s only tournament was held for the first time ever.

Dave Blottner, executive director at the Whitehorse Food Bank, said the food bank upped its services because of the pandemic. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Food Bank sees Yukoners’ generosity firsthand

“Businesses didn’t know if they could stay open but they were calling us to make sure we were able to stay open.”

More than 25,000 people have received the firsdt dose of the vaccine, according to the Yukon government. (Black Press file)
Yukon has now vaccinated 76 per cent of eligible adults

The territory has surpassed its goal of 75 per cent as a first step toward ‘herd immunity’

A prescribed burn is seen from the lookout at Range Road and Whistle Bend Way in Whitehorse May 12. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Editorial: Are you ready for a forest fire?

Citizens for a Firesmart Whitehorse have listed some steps for Yukoners to boost safety and awareness

Caribou pass through the Dempster Highway area in their annual migration. A recent decision by the privacy commissioner has recommended the release of some caribou collar re-location data. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News)
Privacy commissioner recommends release of caribou location data

Department of Environment says consultation with its partners needed before it will consider release

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Family pleased youth will be able to get Pfizer vaccine

Angela Drainville, mother of two, is anxious for a rollout plan to come forward

Safe at home office in Whitehorse on May 10, 2021. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Federal government provides $1.6 million for Yukon anti-homelessness work

Projects including five mobile homes for small communities received funding.

Drilling at Northern Tiger’s 3Ace gold project in 2011. Randi Newton argues that mining in the territory can be reshaped. (Yukon government/file)
Editorial: There’s momentum for mining reform

CPAWS’ Randi Newton argues that the territory’s mining legislations need a substantial overhaul

At its May 10 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the subdivision for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell. (Submitted)
KDFN business park subdivision approved

Will mean more commercial industrial land available in Whitehorse

Most Read