The City of Whitehorse unveiled its proposed capital budget for 2020 with council members approving first reading for the spending plan Nov. 12. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Whitehorse releases proposed $33M capital budget for 2020

It includes money for upgrading city infrastructure along with focusing on reducing energy use

The City of Whitehorse unveiled its proposed capital budget for 2020 — totalling more than $33 million — with council members approving first reading for the spending plan Nov. 12.

The city would spend $7.45 million from its own reserves in 2020 along with a further $26.3 million from external sources such as federal and territorial funds, provided approval for the external funding comes through.

The plan also sets out provisional capital spending plans into 2023 with the city expecting to spend $6.6 million in 2021, $3.8 million in 2022, and $3.2 million in 2023 on capital projects from its reserves.

A separate document shows the city plans to spend a further $34 million in 2021, $20.5 million in 2022 and $27.1 million in 2023 from federal and territorial funds, provided they are approved as planned.

Mayor Dan Curtis said much of the budget will be spent upgrading city infrastructure and equipment along with focusing on reducing energy use.

“This time around we are placing special emphasis on reducing our energy consumption by upgrading to more efficient, sustainable equipment,” he said in his budget speech. “Reducing our carbon footprint has always been a top priority for council and administration. This focus is even stronger now that we have declared a climate change emergency.”

Whitehorse was among a long list of jurisdictions around the world to declare a climate emergency this year.

Among those projects to reduce energy use and thus address climate change over the next four years are $425,000 in upgrades to the waste heat recovery system at the Canada Games Centre; a $125,000 study of the city’s fleet management system to address inefficiencies; continued work at the cost of $20.8 million over three years on the city’s new services building as part of the overall consolidation efforts of the city; and upgrades to the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre and Takhini Arena. The work to Mount McIntyre is budgeted at $8.7 million over two years beginning in 2021 with Takhini Arena expected to see $120,000 worth of upgrades in 2021.

On the transit side, the city would purchase new buses with $1.1 million budgeted in 2020, followed by $1.2 million in 2021. Work would also continue on the city’s transit network and schedules with $50,000 earmarked in 2020.

Speaking to reporters after first reading of the budget was passed unanimously, Curtis also highlighted the work planned to incorporate more Indigenous languages around the city through street signs, at parks and other public spaces. The city would hire a consultant to research and compile Indigenous place names around the city. That would be done in 2020 with $40,000 budgeted.

“This initiative will help bring awareness towards the revitalization of Indigenous languages and will build off of other research work carried out on this topic, including the waterfront heritage project led by the Kwanlin Dün First Nation,” he said during his budget speech.

A $50,000 redesign of the city’s website is also on the books for 2020 with an aim of making the whitehorse.ca “more modern and user-friendly.

“Currently, the website is outdated and contains some information that is hard to find,” Curtis said . “The website is a critical tool for residents, businesses and visitors alike who are searching for up-to-date information and is often the first point of contact with the municipality.”

As is typically the case, there was no discussion among council ahead of first reading. Council typically adopts first reading of the budget to get the document to the public input stage. Then at second reading, council members discuss the document and may propose amendments or may vote against the spending plan if they disagree with it.

A public input session will be held at city council’s Nov. 25 meeting. A report on the input will then come forward at council’s Dec. 2 meeting with council expected to adopt the budget at its Dec. 9 session.

Full capital budget details are available at whitehorse.ca/budget with residents invited to submit comments at budgetinput@whitehorse.ca or in person at the public input session

The city’s 2020 operating budget and operating spending plan into 2023, which details any tax and fee changes for the coming year, is expected to come forward for first reading Dec. 9.

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

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