The Resort Municipality of Whistler said on Tuesday that a software glitch was behind an error in the 2011 Property Tax Notice that was sent out last week to single-family homes. New notices sent out this week will be higher by almost $200.
According to the RMOW, the glitch omitted the solid waste fee from the notices, a line item of $194 that applies to the 3,096 single family homes in the resort that use the waste transfer stations at Function and Nesters. Residents who live in stratas and pay for garbage collection are exempt, as are commercial taxpayers.
The RMOW has worked with the software company to correct the problem, and updated notices have been reprinted and sent out.
Despite the error there is no change in the deadline for residents to pay property taxes. The July 2 due date is mandated by the province, although taxes will be accepted without penalty until July 4 this year because the due date falls on a long weekend.
The RMOW is encouraging residents to pay electronically in the event of a postal strike. You can also pay in person at municipal hall.
Pique first learned about the error on Monday after a member of the community went to municipal hall to pay his taxes and was alerted to the mistake.
The missing line item was not the only surprise for residents on this 2011 property tax bill.
Terry Graham was taken aback to discover that he no longer qualified for the Basic Home Owner Grant and Additional Grant for Whistler. From 2004 to Dec. 31, 2010, when the agreement with the Province expired, the threshold at which the grants applied was raised for Whistler and other resort communities in recognition of higher than average property values.
Graham said he hadn't heard of the change, which came into effect when the agreement expired on Dec. 31, 2010.
According to the RMOW, the Residential Property Assistance program was put in place when the homeowner grant threshold was $585,000, but now the current threshold of $1,150,000 where grants are reduced is in line with property values.
The RMOW said there were administrative costs associated with the program, and that residents were advised of the change in the 2010 property tax notice.
Graham called MLA Joan McIntyre for more information. An assistant told him that the province had offered to gradually reduce the assistance program over several years, but the RMOW declined.
Graham, a senior who would have qualified for both the Basic and Additional grants under the old formula, would have liked to see the program rolled back gradually. This year, despite the fact that his house was assessed lower, his total bill increased roughly eight per cent - not including the solid waste line item which will be added on.
"With the grants I might have seen my bill go down," said Graham. "It's disappointing. I have a lot of friends up here that are not super-wealthy that own homes, and they're going to get hit with this. I'm sure some people are not even aware of it."
Depending on property assessments, many Whistler residents saw a decrease or flat property tax rates this year as a result of the new Northern and Rural Home Benefit created by the province, which saved residents up to $200 - that's despite a four per cent increase in the municipal tax rate.