Most Whistler property assessments are down for the first time since 1981-82, but there may not be any break for taxpayers. "We’ve already made an increase to allow for inflation," said Whistler Mayor Hugh O’Reilly of plans for the 1999 municipal budget. "We haven’t got all the numbers yet, but our goal is to stay within that." The municipality adjusts the mil rate according to property assessments to meet the municipal budget. The municipality will face a net loss of about $50,000 through cuts to provincial transfer payments this year. That won’t have much of an impact on a municipal operating budget which last year was $23.4 million. But the municipality is facing additional costs each year as it struggles to balance the services required by a growing population and increased visitors with the decline in revenues from development as the town reaches buildout. Whistler’s 1999 assessment notices were mailed to property owners last week. Area assessor Calvin Smyth said properties on this year’s assessment roll are generally valued lower than last year, however many of the most exclusive properties, such as those in Horstman Estates and on Blueberry Hill, have maintained their value. All property assessments are based on the market as of July 1, 1998. "The real estate market determines the value of property and BC Assessment reports that value to the property owners and taxing authority," Smyth said. From 1996 to 1997 residential property assessments in Whistler increased an average of 22 per cent. Combined with a 1.6 per cent increase in property taxes levied by the municipality and a 13 per cent increase in school taxes, many property owners were sent reeling last year. As examples of how assessments have declined this year, Smyth said a single family home in Alpine Meadows that was valued at $490,000 in the summer of 1997 would have sold for $465,000 last summer. A single family home in Emerald Estates assessed at $325,000 in 1997 would have been valued at $305,000 last summer. A condominium in the Whistler Creek area that would have sold for $330,000 in the summer of 1997 would have been valued at $310,000 last summer. However, condominiums on the Blackcomb Benchlands generally maintained their value from 1997 to 1998. "The valuation date of July 1, 1998 is in most cases representative of a market place where actual selling prices were higher than they are today," Smyth said in a release. "This decline will be reflected in the 2000-year assessment notices which will represent a market value as of July 1, 1999." Property assessments can be appealed. The deadline for property owners to request an independent review of their assessment is Jan. 31. A written request for a review must be delivered to the BC Assessment office in North Vancouver or post marked by the end of the month. Lists of assessment by address are available for comparison at Whistler’s municipal hall and the Whistler library.