Over half a million dollars has been paid out to Whistler homeowners to date as part of their school tax rebate this year.
"People have been very happy to get any tax money back," said Margaret Waller, manager of financial services for the municipality.
The province granted Whistler property tax relief in May this year. The municipality originally believed that roughly 2,500 resident homeowners would be eligible for the rebate.
Waller said that original estimate may be high.
"I think maybe the estimate was a little high to start with because youd think youd get most of the applications in with the tax notices in June or early July," she said.
Roughly 1,250 resident homeowners have applied for the rebate to date.
Those who are eligible still have until the end of the year to hand in their application. Waller is hoping to catch anyone else who may not have heard about the rebate program and encourage them to apply before the deadline.
"Were doing the best we can," she said.
"Its a new thing and people arent familiar with it so we need to get the word out there."
The rebate program gives Whistler residents a tax break in two ways. First off, the Home Owners Grant (HOG) cap was increased from $525,000 to $2 million. That means permanent residents living in homes assessed at $2 million or less will qualify for the $470 HOG rebates ($745 for seniors.)
The second part of the rebate involves the school tax rate. The province created a separate school tax rate for resident homeowners. This means a resident homeowner whose property is assessed at the Whistler average of $1,043,000 will get roughly $160 in relief based on the new tax rate.
So between the two programs that average homeowner will get more than $600 back in total.
Waller said the rebates vary based on the assessed value of a home.
People living in smaller units or in employee housing were already eligible for the HOG and so their school tax rebate could be around $100 or so.
"Theyve already got the Homeowner Grant so they dont get the Homeowner Grant top up," said Waller.
"They just get the reduction in the school tax rate."
The rebate was introduced in Whistler after a long period of lobbying by the municipality and local activists.
They argued that as property values have increased in Whistler over the years, so have school taxes. At the same time, the average income has not increased at the same rate. For many long-time homeowners the increase in taxes has become a significant financial burden.
"The property tax relief program will ease the financial burden for ordinary Whistler residents, who live here year-round and contribute to the economic and social fabric of this community," said Mayor Hugh OReilly after the tax relief program was announced late last spring.
Homeowners can get a tax rebate application form at municipal hall or from the RMOW Web site.
For general information call the RMOW Tax Department at 604-935-8130.
All applications must be received by Dec. 21, 2003.