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The big squeeze

Rising taxes, rising costs, and the impact on the Whistler standard of living

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This year my residential property tax bill increased $179.17 for a WHA property that was appraised at $325,000, after the provincial basic Home Owner Grant was applied.

That includes a 5.5 per cent municipal tax increase, a new $100 composter fee, and an increase of $85 over the previous year for sewer and water.

The extra $180 charge may not seem like much, but keep in mind that the 5.5 per cent rise in municipal taxes was offset by a 3.9 per cent reduction in the provincial tax rate that kept the increase down to 1.5 per cent when all was said and done. Adding four per cent to my tax bill would have pushed my tax burden to more than $200.

Also keep in mind that most homes in Whistler are worth far more than mine — not WHA homes, where I’m probably about average, but market homes where many of Whistler’s longest standing residents live can be worth anywhere from three to six times as much. That doesn’t translate to three to six times higher taxes once mil rates are applied, but it does translate to much higher taxes.

For all of those increases, it’s also worth noting that Whistler’s average property tax rates are still lower than Vancouver compared to the value of homes — the result of having so many second homeowners and other sources of tax revenue to boost municipal finances, and fewer social programs to fund.

It’s also worth noting that the municipal tax revenues needed to increase by 14.5 per cent, primarily to cover rising operational costs and roughly $2 million less in tax revenue that the municipality will collect in July as a result of a change in the way that many of Whistler’s condo hotels are taxed. The municipality froze department budgets this year to keep taxes down, and deferred some projects to keep the increase low this year, but next year will be a different story and future increases above inflation are very likely at this point. One day we will also benefit from a larger share of the hotel tax that could bring in $5 million or more annually to the municipal coffers, but Olympic-related developments have a claim on that money for the next five years.

Property taxes aren’t the only way that homes cost money.

This August my monthly strata fees will increase by $15 a month or $180 a year, while I’m also required to pay an additional one-time payment of $303 to cover the additional costs of snow clearing this past winter — which as a ski bum I don’t mind paying. But that’s another $480 going out the door this year.

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