Whitehorse budget faces growing opposition

Whitehorse's civic budget is facing mounting opposition from municipal and territorial politicans who want to limit rising taxes.

Whitehorse's civic budget is facing mounting opposition from municipal and territorial politicians who want to limit rising taxes.

Whitehorse city council is debating an operations budget that proposes a four percent property tax increase. Some councillors have already threatened to vote down the budget because of that tax hike. ((CBC))

Some city councillors have been threatening to vote down the 2011-2012 operations budget, which proposes a four per cent property tax hike and increases to water and sewage fees.

City officials have said they want to raise property taxes again over the next two years, in order to accommodate Whitehorse's growing population.

But in the Yukon legislature this week, NDP MLA Steve Cardiff said some residents, like senior citizens, are already having trouble paying their property tax.

Cardiff said the territorial government should let the City of Whitehorse find other sources of revenue.

"That could be a hotel tax, it could be a gas tax within the city of Whitehorse," he said in the legislature on Tuesday. "This is done in other jurisdictions. I know in the Greater Vancouver Regional District, they have the ability to do that."

Community Services Minister Archie Lang said the Yukon government has been getting by without raising taxes, so he's not sure if giving municipalities more taxes to raise is the right answer.

"Do I agree with the taxes, or do I think that maybe we could look at how we spend the taxes better in the city of Whitehorse? This government has never raised taxes," he told MLAs.

Lang said the territorial government is working with local governments on how to pay for rising costs and demands from their citizens. Issues such as taxation will be discussed at a meeting later this spring, he added.

Councillors demand changes

At this week's Whitehorse city council meeting, councillors Betty Irwin and Doug Graham called for changes to the operations budget.

Irwin said if Whitehorse city managers cannot find a way to keep the property tax increase below 1.5 per cent, she will vote to scrap the budget altogether.

"We shouldn't have to tell management how to do it. They should be able to do it," Irwin said at Monday night's council meeting.

"I simply cannot accept a four per cent increase in taxes this year for the citizens of Whitehorse."

Graham said the budget proposes too much in spending increases, and he'll be looking for some changes when the budget returns to council for second reading next week.

"We're spending, scheduled to spend, $3.8 million more than we spent last year, and to me that's totally unnecessary," Graham said.