Council has tuned in to community concerns and dropped the proposed tax increase from 6 to 5.5 per cent.
That was the way Mayor Ken Melamed put it this week while speaking about the new proposed property tax rate.
“Some would argue that the tax increase should not be this low, but council believes it is representing some of the feedback from the community in setting the tax rate to 5.5 and trying to be fiscally responsible, yet respective of people’s income and ability to contribute to tax,” said Melamed.
He added: “The hope is that we haven’t cut it too low, so that next year we are faced with the same challenge.”
Municipal staff have refined the budget to bring taxes down a half per cent by cutting more than $2.7 million in programs, including a $1.5 million reduction to capital contributions.
More detailed information on the budget should become available over the next week, but a background report on the 2008 budget is currently available on the municipality’s website.
This new property tax rate means that residential owners will be charged an additional $11 for every $100,000 of assessed value.
In other words, an average residence, assessed at $750,000, would face an increase of $82 this year.
And an average single-family home, assessed at $1.3 million, would see a $128 increase over last year.
Also, residents could see a change in their utility user fees, including $85 more for the wastewater treatment plant upgrade and a new $100 fee for the composter and transfer station.
For Whistler businesses, the property tax increase means an extra $35 for every $100,000 of assessed value, meaning that the average business, assessed at $430,000, will have to pay an additional $153.
The tax rate has been controversial since late last year when council realized that if it continues to do business as usual, property taxes would have to increase 14.5 per cent.
Following a heated open house at the GLC in November — which saw roughly 50 community members gathering to voice their concern — council then approved a preliminary budget based on a six per cent tax increase.
However even the six per cent tax increase was contested, with many community members, including the Chamber of Commerce, calling to keep the 2008 budget tied to the rate of inflation. A second public meeting was held at Myrtle Philip school in January to further discuss the figures.
“Council heard that, couldn’t come down to CPI (Consumer Price Index) but requested and directed staff to try and drive that number down again,” said Melamed.