Mayor Laura Cabot delivered her annual capital budget speech at the council meeting on Monday.
This budget, Cabot said, proposes investments of more than $58 million in 2023, contingent on partner funding from the Yukon and federal governments.
The regulation required to approve the proposed budget received the first of three readings on Monday.
“Residents and taxpayers expect the most responsible use of City funds, and we as a council have a responsibility to balance those expectations with the ambition and potential of our community,” Cabot said.
This capital budget does just that.
“The budget I am presenting to you tonight is the budget that continues the path toward our goal of meeting the demands of a growing community, while making sensible and sustainable decisions.”
The budget, for example, talks about the need for $4 million for new equipment to support snow removal operations, given the significant increase in snowfall the city has experienced the past two winters.
He’s talking about implementing the 2020 Trail Plan, which includes upgrading, decommissioning, and building trails as well as maintaining the city’s existing 240 kilometers of trails.
She said the budget includes continuing work on the city’s transportation master plan.
“We have revised the budget this year to include a number of new opportunities that can improve connectivity across our transit network,” said the mayor.
“This work includes exploration of a second river crossing in the city and additional study of how traffic flow on Quartz Road and Mountain View Drive can improve traffic in and out of Porter Creek and Phis Bend.”
The mayor said a project board member is excited about incorporating Southern Tutchone place names into city-owned buildings, with $58,000 earmarked for the project.
“Next year, we will develop policy under the guidance of local First Nations to ensure that we develop policy that reflects the true partnership we share,” said Cabot.
“This Council is focused on meaningful work of reconciliation, and this is one of the many ways we can ensure that the diversity and history of our community are meaningfully incorporated.”
In addition to improving the trail network, the city is also allocating funds to maintain and replace playground equipment at 49 stadiums across Whitehorse.
The budget talks about everything from $250,000 to maintain the city’s storm collection system to the need to purchase critical parts for the water and sewer system to ensure the city can continue to operate and limit service disruptions.
The mayor noted that the city is proposing to contract the maintenance of 1,100 fire hydrants.
Starting this year, Cabot said the city will spend $500,000 in maintaining the aquatic center, including new acoustic work, ventilation upgrades, deck work and change rooms.
She said the budget designates more than $6.3 million starting in 2024 for the expansion of the city’s new operations building on the highway.
Space was required for several city employees and pieces of equipment that had not moved from the decommissioned Municipal Services Building on Fourth Avenue.
The proposed budget identifies $15.6 million in priority expenditures for 2023 and another $42.5 million in expenditures that require approval from third parties, for a total of $58.1 million.
The budget also outlines proposed annual expenditures not only for 2023 but through 2026.
Priority expenditures over the next four years are estimated at $55.1 million, while expenditures requiring third party approval are estimated to total $130 million.
For example, the four-year capital plan does not specify any financing in the next year for the expansion of the operations building, but it does specify $900,000 in 2024 and $5.4 million in 2025.
Likewise, no money has been slated for next year or in 2024 for a new firehouse in Whistle Bend, but there is $500,000 budgeted for 2025 and another $5.3 million in 2026.
Unfortunately, the city is not immune from the market conditions affecting the rest of the country, the mayor said.
“Our plans and projects have already been greatly affected by rising material costs, and significant labor shortages in many sectors of the economy,” said Cabot.
“The past year has been particularly challenging due to capacity constraints and staffing shortages.
“Our emergency response to landslides and urgent infrastructure repairs have resulted in dwindling resources and project delays.”
In many cases, Cabot said, projects that have been tendered have not received a response.
She said the city needs to consider these factors in how it plans a number of important projects in the coming years.
Cabot said modern jurisdictions know they need to invest in public transportation that is affordable and accessible to all.
“This means making meaningful changes that will improve access and convenience for all users,” she said.
This budget outlines plans to build modern, accessible bus shelters with seating.
“We plan to study the fare to see if we can adjust costs to increase ridership, and we are looking to purchase an additional manual bus.”
The mayor said the proposed budget promotes key projects that continue to make Whitehorse a great place to live, work and raise a family.
It makes significant investments in the city’s aging infrastructure and addresses the desire to improve city services.
“Many of these investments are not flashy but they are key areas of responsibility for the city, and it’s the council’s job to make sure we deliver on our core business,” said Cabot.
“As we look beyond 2023, we know there are still many exciting opportunities ahead. Significant infrastructure works in Hillcrest, a plan for a new town hall and transit hub are just some of the many things that can benefit residents, and we continue to plan for these initiatives. “.
Cabot said the city is working hard to get the proposed capital budget in place by the beginning of next year.
“This will give local businesses and contractors as much advance notice as possible, so they can prioritize and plan for upcoming capital projects in the city,” she said.
“We do this to maximize economic opportunity for all of our local businesses.”
Cabot concluded by encouraging the business community and residents to provide feedback on the proposed budget.
It said a plenary session for input is scheduled for the council meeting on November 28, and the second and third readings of the required bylaw are scheduled for December 12.
Cabot also thanked the city administration, “which worked very hard to prepare the proposed budget.”