So it looks like Whistler property owners may be able to celebrate the second year in a row of zero-per-cent tax increases.
Honestly, this kind of good fortune is something everyone should be thankful for. In the world of municipal financial affairs these days, costs are going up and revenues are going down. To go through two years in a row of a big fat zero added onto the cost of living and doing business in this resort is good news and good politics.
Last yearís zero-per-cent tax increase came as a sigh of relief after 10 straight years of increased taxes. That solid decade of tax increases totaled 34 per cent since 2002.
The good budget news doesnít stop there. The library is expected to be open on Sundays. Did you just jump for joy? We certainly did. Such a community focused and hard working council would be amiss to ignore that a $14 million library closed on Sundays in a major tourist resort is a thorn in the side of the reputation of municipal services.
But there is a cautionary note to sound, before we throw a parade other than Pride, because service fees will be going up this year. While we donít want to burst the bubble, a rose by any other name is still a form of taxation and that applies to fees and levies. Recreation fees are currently being examined at Meadow Park with the intention of raising rates, which could hit families the hardest.
But our municipally-minded philosophy is it is better to see recreation users paying for this service, than continue to tax the rest of the community in order to subsidize lower rates. Key to this strategy, however, is ensuring those rates are structured in way that is geared towards lower fees for those who can least afford it and those uses that are community driven, and higher fees for those who can pay.
The other thing that should be considered, by taxpayers and council alike, is that zero-per-cent tax increases are absolutely unsustainable. To see a third year in a row of such good financial news would indeed be unexpected, and concerning.
That is because it would run the risk of pushing the problem further into the future. Yes, no tax hikes are nice, but if the result is that taxes go up by an unusually high percentage in a year or two, that would be a big hit to the wallet. Some municipal councils prefer to keep increases steady, but low over time in order to avoid the situation of a tax hike that would be unpopular, and by unpopular we mean of the kind that is rather large in size.
Of course, that is for next yearís budget process to decide. Given that the 2014 budget will be this councilís last before reelection, we will wait to see it they will be able to maintain this level of fiscal prudence.