Mayor Dan Curtis answers questions from media after a city council meeting on Nov. 14, 2018. Whitehorse city council approved their 2019-2021 operations and maintenance budget at the Feb. 11 regular council meeting, alongside a tax increase. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Whitehorse mayor calls tax and fee increases reasonable

Council approved the 2019 operations budget

Since you’re not dead, you’re paying taxes, and what you pay will be a little bit more this year in Whitehorse.

Whitehorse City Council approved its 2019-2021 operations and maintenance budget at the Feb. 11 regular council meeting, alongside a tax increase, which amounts to an average of $69 more a year for homeowners and $363 for businesses.

The total approved budget for the 2019 fiscal year is $81.2 million, with provisional budgets of $81.8 million and $83.7 million for 2020 and 2021, respectively.

The bulk of that spending in 2019 is for general government services, which covers administrative and human resources, as well as corporate and engineering services, coming in at $21.7 million.

Transportation services, including public transit, comes in at $18.4 million, followed by environmental services – which handles things like parks and waste and water – at $14.3 million and then recreation and cultural services at $13.2 million. Those budgets all have increases under or around $1 million from what was allotted to them in 2019.

Mayor Dan Curtis said he felt the tax increase was reasonable, given the circumstances. If you compare taxes and budgets in the City of Whitehorse to other municipalities, we are “doing quite well,” he added.

“A zero per cent tax increase (indefinitely) is unreasonable,” he said.

The budget passed with a vote of six to one, with only Coun. Samson Hartland opposed. Hartland said his primary concern was voting for a budget in light of the tax increase because it calls for seven additional full time positions to be created in the city.

Hartland said roughly half of the city’s operations and maintenance budget was dedicated to wages and he “was not looking to grow that.”

“I expect us to do more with less,” he said.

City manager Linda Rapp clarified that three of the seven proposed positions are provisional.

“We did a lot of work to pare (the budget) down to where it is,” said Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu, adding that, “as our community grows, it’s natural and reasonable” to expect the need for more city employees to provide services.

Coun. Laura Cabott said that the budget had originally called for 16 full-time positions to be created, and that they had worked to bring it down to seven. She felt “comfortable” the budget would meet both costs and expectations for the city.

Curtis also pointed out that the city has a lot of costs, such as electricity. The city is ATCO Electric’s biggest customer, he added.

“When energy goes up, costs go up … every single light post you see is a bill to the city. These things cost,” he said.

Some fees for city-controlled services will also increase, such as some permitting, waste management fees and the rate for sewer and water services. Recreation and facility service fees will go up by 1.5 per cent, including admissions and memberships.

“However unpopular, sometimes we have to raise our taxes and user fees… it really does cover a lot of extra services we provide for residents, “ Cabott said.

Contact Lori Fox at lori.fox@yukon-news.com

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