Whitehorse budget passes by slim margin
Whitehorse residents will pay more in property taxes this year, after the city's budget squeaked past council despite a last-ditch effort to delay the vote.
Council voted 4-3 on Monday to approve the city's $63.4-million operations and maintenance budget for 2011.
The budget includes a four per cent property tax increase, as well as a 7.3 per cent increase in 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.
Chamber sought 2-week delay
But in a last-minute plea, chamber president Rick Karp urged council to delay the budget vote by two weeks and discuss possible alternatives to a tax hike.
"We can bring to the table some expertise," Karp said at Monday night's council meeting.
"We really need to have the opportunity to address this with administration and to look at any opportunity that is there to make some positive changes to this budget."
Karp suggested that hundreds of thousands of dollars could be cut from the city's budget without compromising city jobs or crucial services.
Three city councillors — Ranj Pillai, Betty Irwin and Doug Graham — supported Karp's proposal.
"We're talking about a two-week deferral, at no cost to taxpayers, and we might gain some new perspective on this budget," Graham said.
Too late for delay, mayor says
But the other four councillors, including Mayor Bev Buckway, said the chamber's plea came too late.
"To come forward at such a late date and suggest that there's $800,000 of savings without putting anything on the table — to me, it's hard to swallow," Buckway told council. "There was ample time to put something in writing."
Buckway said she stands by the budget as is, arguing that the city put a lot of thought and planning into it.
"We've cut back in parks and rec, we don't mow the lawns as often, we don't fertilize the lawns as often. There's cutbacks in every department," she said.
"We say, 'Should we pick up the garbage every fourth week instead of every second week? Should we reduce the snow removal? What services don't we want?' Collectively, we sit in the room and we hammer it back and forth. So it's not like we're throwing darts at the dartboard."
Buckway said the newly approved budget means improvements to the city's transit system can now move ahead.