There is no planned resolution for Mt. Sima’s financial problems – yet.
The ski hill’s money woes have been a main topic at recent Whitehorse city council meetings. But they weren’t mentioned this past Monday night.
Last week, city council and administration met behind closed doors to discuss options for supporting the ski hill. And the discussion will continue, Mayor Dan Curtis said after Monday’s meeting. City administration is planning a summit later this month with members of the business community, territorial government and the ski society to discuss how to keep the hill alive.
“Right now, what we’ve heard loud and clear, from the group and the society, is that they’re short on cash,” said Curtis.
Just how much money is needed has caused some confusion over the past few weeks.
On March 11, over 100 people packed city hall chambers to ask councillors to consider long-term core funding for the society. But there are immediate needs too, council was told.
The Great Northern Ski Society, which runs the hill, needs $400,000 to keep Mt. Sima open past the end of this winter season, president Craig Hougen told council.
The society also asked the city for long-term annual funding. Later that week, it posted information online saying that funding would begin at $400,000 on a declining basis.
That means the society needs $800,000 in 2013, city administrators told council on March 18. This would be equal to an approximately three per cent tax increase.
The report put the society on the defensive. The additional $400,000 was a “conservative estimate for core-funding required moving forward,” the society said in a March 19 press release.
But it’s going to take more than the city to keep the society running.
“I just don’t see that being in the works,” Curtis said when asked if the city would consider the immediate funding.
“The City of Whitehorse hasn’t got a bursting bank account right now. And we’re doing everything we can to mitigate costs and to reduce the tax burden on our taxpayers,” he said.
The city approved raising taxes by 3.83 per cent last week, and similar increases are proposed for the next two years.
“I don’t feel there’s a sense of having an additional tax increase. I think we’re really more concentrated on the solutions than the ‘what ifs’ at this point,” he said.
City councillors have also called on the community to help find a solution.
“I’m putting it out that it should be the community’s responsibility. It shouldn’t be forced upon the taxpayers,” Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu said at the March 18 meeting. “It’s the people that want to use the hill. They need to step up to the plate, and they need to actually do something to try and save this hill.”
And many residents oppose the city giving the ski hill more cash, several councillors noted at that meeting.
But Curtis was also clear the city wants Mt. Sima to survive.
“We’re very hopeful that that valuable asset continues, but it’s not going to be at any cost. And we just, quite frankly, we don’t have that resource.”
Even ski hills that receive municipal funding struggle, he said.
“It’s not unique. It’s not alone. But the reality is there’s only so much a municipality can do without partnerships from the community.”
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