Watson Lake surplus to help control property taxes

The town of Watson Lake has announced a record surplus for the fiscal year. Mayor Richard Durocher projects that the year-end surplus will be around $725,000.

The town of Watson Lake has announced a record surplus for the fiscal year.

Mayor Richard Durocher projects that the year-end surplus will be around $725,000.

That number could be tempered by spending due to heavy snowfall or cold temperatures, but a record-breaking year is expected in any case.

“We’re really proud of the fact that we can report to the community that we’re in a fiscally sound position,” said Durocher.

Durocher attributes the surplus to a restructuring of the municipal government over the last three years.

“We were facing, just like about every municipality in Canada and Yukon, a fiscal wall where if we continued with the practice that we’d been doing, we would hit that,” said Durocher. “And at some point we’d have to look at either going to the rate payer for more revenue or say, ‘Look, we need to tighten our belts here and we’re still going to offer the same services we do now, but do it in a more responsible manner.’”

Now, instead of having one chief administrative officer overseeing 22 employees and the entire community, the town now employs a management team of four with responsibilities broken down by department.

As a result, administration of the municipality has been streamlined and cost-saving measures have been found, said Durocher.

While this surplus may be larger than usual, the town has rarely recorded deficits in its history, he said.

This year’s surplus will go towards controlling property taxes to ensure that they do not rise faster than inflation.

The town has two major financial challenges ahead, said Durocher.

The top priority is a new water treatment plant, for which planning is well on its way. That project will be funded in partnership with the Yukon government.

The second challenge will be to implement a waste management strategy that will see the end of open-pit garbage burning in the community.

The town has received several extensions on an order to end burning, but until the territorial government agrees to help fund the waste management strategy, the municipality has no choice, said Durocher.

“This council is not in favour of burning. The sooner the better. We’re not just going to sit on our behinds and continue burning just because we’re allowed to.”

The town’s waste management plan will cost an estimated $2-4 million to implement, said Durocher.

They don’t expect the Yukon government to fully fund it, and plan to bridge the shortfall through reserve accounts and gas tax revenue, he said.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at jronson@yukon-news.com