While it still remains to be seen what municipal property tax rates will be this year, residents will at least be guaranteed that their share of the tax burden will stay the same or go down compared to last year.
On Monday, homeowners across the province received notice from B.C. Assessment, which determines the approximate value of homes based on sales figures. Because the assessments were made in July, before the economy declined, the province passed special legislation in November that homes be assessed at the lower of July 1, 2008 or July 1, 2007 values.
According to Jason Grant, Area Assessor for Vancouver Sea to Sky Region, assessments stayed the same or dropped for roughly 93 per cent of homes in Whistler, 92 per cent of homes in Pemberton, and 97 per cent of homes in Squamish. Assessments on homes that gained value stayed flat, while homes that lost value were assessed for less.
The remaining percentage, seven per cent in Whistler, saw their assessments go up because the homes were newly built, or underwent major renovations to increase their value.
“The first and most important thing is that the assessment notices contain two values, one for July 2007 and one for July 2008, and depending which one is lower the lower one will be your 2009 assessed value,” said Grant. “We did publish what 2009 values would have been if the special legislation was not enacted, but you will always be assessed by the lower value.”
While municipal governments make the final decision on how much to tax based on budged projections, the assessments can determine your share relative to other residents. For example, if homes in one neighbourhood increase in value while other neighbourhoods see a decline then that will be reflected in taxes.
The July 1, 2007 assessment rolls, which were used to determine property taxes for 2008, were up anywhere from five to 15 per cent in Whistler, the first increase in value in four relatively flat years. The same figures are not available for July 2008 because of the province’s decision to change the assessment process this year.
Pat Kelly, owner of the Whistler Real Estate Company, said the province did the right thing by freezing assessments.
“I can only speak from my personal experience, and that is my property in Pemberton was assessed the same as the year before, as the provincial government outlined,” he said. “The market situation didn’t change in that period of time between assessments, 2007 to 2008, and we’re getting the benefit of a lower assessment than we maybe would have seen in July 2008, when the market was still strong. What will be interesting is to see values when they’re taken again on July 1, 2009, given the economic challenges we’re facing.”