Vancouverites will pay an unforeseen price in the years following 2010’s five-ring circus, a local expert is warning.

Zuzana Fromm, an economics professor at BCIT, said it’s possible the B.C. government will either raise taxes or cut spending from programs such as education or health care to pay for the Games’ net cost.

“The money’s got to come from somewhere if they’re going to keep a balanced budget and not increase the size of the provincial debt,” said Fromm, who authored the 2006 report Economic Issues of Vancouver-Whistler 2010 Olympics.

Premier Gordon Campbell maintained that the province will stay within its $600 million budget; however, B.C. auditor general Arn van Iersel said the total cost will hover around $1.5 billion for the province and $2.5 billion for all of Canada.

This figure is on top of VANOC’s $1.76 billion operating budget — recently raised from $1.6 billion — and comprises items not in official estimates such as infrastructure upgrades, $580 million in competition venue construction and the $875 million athletes’ village, which VANOC said is a public development only being leased for the?Games.

History shows that most Olympic cities carry hefty debts following the Games: It took Montreal 30 years to pay off its $1.5 billion Olympic Stadium; Turin owed nearly $196 million US; and Athens was in the hole for a staggering $17 billion US.

While VANOC insists the Games are on budget, some see the committee’s proposal to hand out alpine and Nordic event medals at Whistler venues instead of the $13.6 million, purpose-built Olympic celebration plaza‚ which would shave off only about $5 million from operating costs — as a sign of just how critical the numbers have become.

“What we have tried to do is maintain the quality of the celebration … but strip away some of the added costs we see as completely unnecessary,” said VANOC CEO John Furlong.