Mayor Dan Curtis speaks during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on Dec. 9. Councillors discussed raising property taxes 2.2 per cent in 2020 during the meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Whitehorse proposes 2.2 per cent property tax hike

The 2020 operating budget passed first reading this week

Property tax bills in Whitehorse are expected to rise 2.2 per cent in 2020.

For the owner of an average single detached home that translates into an anticipated tax bill of $2,528 in 2020, $54 more than it was in 2019.

At the same time, those on the city’s water and sewer system may see those bills rise as well with rates increasing by 1.71 per cent to $85.85 each month from the current $84.41.

The figures were released at Whitehorse city council’s Dec. 9 meeting with council members approving first reading of the proposed $84.7 million operating budget for 2020.

Rentals and passes for the Canada Games Centre and city parks as well as advertising rates in the city’s Active Living Guide would also rise by 1.5 per cent as it typically does every year in September. Meanwhile, the cost of ads on rink boards, sign boards and ice logos at city facilities would increase by 10 per cent

In his seven-page budget speech, Mayor Dan Curtis pointed out the 2.2 per cent hike is actually lower than the 2.3 per cent hike that was projected earlier for 2020.

“To go from 2.3 (per cent) to 2.2 is pretty remarkable in terms of our city,” Curtis told reporters after the meeting. He said the change is in line with inflation.

In his speech, Curtis noted that half the operating budget is funded through property taxes with the remainder coming from fees and government grants.

“Though tax increases are not usually welcome, it is a necessary action in order to cover the essential services for our growing community,” he said.

Throughout his speech, the mayor stressed the city is working to keep taxes low while also maintaining a high level of service in all areas.

The city’s operations budget goes to maintaining city roads, snow clearing and all the daily workings of the city. A large part covers staffing and this year’s budget proposes hiring for three new positions with the city planning to hire a utility stations mechanic, a transportation engineer and an environmental coordinator.

All will be full-time equivalent positions with the mechanic position in place for two years with the others being permanent positions, city officials said.

Speaking to reporters following the meeting, Curtis said the three positions are necessary to address the needs of a growing city.

The new environmental coordinator will help the city take action around climate change mitigation and adaptation, thus addressing the city’s declaration of a climate change emergency in September, he said.

“Moreover, it will support the city’s efforts towards environmental sustainability by researching, scoping, designing and analyzing community-based social marketing campaigns on a variety of topics, such as wildfire risk reduction and the city’s bicycle network plan,” he said.

Meanwhile, the new transportation engineer will allow the city to address more complex transportation issues that have come up in recent years thanks to the city’s growth.

“The additional capacity will also help with the implementation of city plans, such as the transportation demand management plan and the bicycle network plan.”

In an email, city spokesperson Myles Dolphin said the mechanic position will mean additional resources for the department to work on short-term projects over the two year term.

The city will continue working to ensure quality services are provided to citizens, he said.

“With your tax dollars our city will continue to deliver top quality services and programs to all residents and visitors alike,” Curtis said. “This includes snow clearing, road maintenance, fire protection and first response, transit services, park and trail maintenance, recreation programs and a number of other important regulatory services. Quality municipal services are a significant contribution to what makes Whitehorse an ideal place for citizens and businesses to thrive and visitors to enjoy our Wilderness City.”

A public input session on the proposed operating budget will be held at council’s Jan. 13, 2020 meeting. A report on the input will come forward Jan. 20, 2020 with second and third reading expected Jan. 27, 2020.

Council approved third reading of the 2020 capital budget Monday.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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