Whitehorse property taxes to rise

The municipal taxman continues to stalk Whitehorse residents. Residential and business taxes are set to rise 3.83 per cent this year. This means the average homeowner will pay $65 more.

The municipal taxman continues to stalk Whitehorse residents.

Residential and business taxes are set to rise 3.83 per cent this year. This means the average homeowner will pay $65 more, while the average business property tax will rise by nearly $300.

The increases were announced in the city’s proposed $65-million operations budget, which passed first reading Monday night.

Taxes could keep rising over the next couple years. They’re projected to increase by just over four per cent in 2014 and another three per cent in 2015.

And taxes aren’t the only thing rising. The cost for curbside waste and compost collection will increase to $9 from $8. Fees at the landfill will also go up. Tipping fees for a metric ton of waste will rise to $69 from $54, while compost will cost $26 per metric ton. Right now, there’s no charge for compost at the landfill.

The city needs to raise taxes because of population growth, inflation and to pay for staff salaries, Mayor Dan Curtis said in his budget speech Monday night.

After the meeting, he stressed it wasn’t an easy decision to make.

“I may be the mayor of Whitehorse, but I’m also a citizen of Whitehorse and I’m also raising a family here,” Curtis told reporters.

“So the last thing I want to do is see is an extra burden on people who are trying to make a living and trying to get by. So this is a compromise.”

That compromise is a $600,000 reduction in city services. The Canada Games Centre will now be closed for six statutory holidays instead of the two – Christmas Day and New Year’s Day – it is currently closed. Victoria Day, Canada Day, Discovery Day and Labour Day have been added to the list.

Road maintenance in Whistle Bend will be scaled back.

The city had classified Whistle Bend Way as being in the highest priority to have snow cleared – in the same list as roads like Hamilton Boulevard, Two Mile Hill, Robert Service Way and Lewes Boulevard.

But construction in Whistle Bend hasn’t happened as quickly as the city expected. Right now, there are only a few houses being built and an occupancy permit has only been granted for one house, city manager Stan Westby said Tuesday. The roads still need to be kept clear since the area is ready for construction. But the roads have been downgraded to the second-highest priority. This change will save the city over $82,000 for the rest of this year, said Brian Crist, director of infrastructure and operations.

And while no one at the city will be losing their jobs to cut costs, new positions will take a little longer to be filled. Last year, the city completed an operational review to see how it could save money and better offer services. The $80,000 review recommended decreasing the number of directors from four to two, and eliminating a couple management positions. The plan was to be phased in over the next several years. A manager of legislative services was scheduled to begin on July 1 this year, but that seat will remain empty.

“No one’s losing their jobs, but some jobs are just being shifted into higher priority,” said Curtis.

This year’s operations budget will see some services increase. The city plans to start offering evening transit service every weeknight by the beginning of the next school year.

Students at Yukon College have long been asking for the change. The last bus stops at the college at 6:50 p.m. on Monday to Thursday evenings, leaving students who use the bus to get home from night classes stranded.

The student union has been lobbying for a city transit pass, said Robert Fendrick, director of corporate services. Businesses have also been asking for more bus services in the evening for their employees, said Fendrick.

The additional transit services will cost $62,000 this year.

The city will also be hiring a fifth building inspector, hopefully to begin July 1.

That position was originally supposed to begin earlier this year.

This budget will also see volunteer firefighters’ pay increase. The firefighters will receive an hourly increase of $2 in June, and another in November.

There will be a public hearing on the budget at the March 11 city council meeting. The budget could receive second and third reading on March 25. The public can submit comments to budgetinput@whitehorse.ca. Budget information can be picked up at city hall or downloaded from the city’s website.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at

mgillmore@yukon-news.com

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