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Whistler presents tax case to province

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Looking for compromise in school tax disparities

Whistler politicians have been working behind the scenes with the provincial ministry of finance searching for a way to address inequitable school taxes for property owners in the resort.

"(We are looking) at a level of wide range technical options and alternatives," said local resident Garry Watson who is a key player in the proceedings.

Under the current formula school taxes are set at a provincial rate across the board and are tied to the value of a commercial or residential property.

As property values continue to rise in Whistler, owners are facing rising school taxes.

Whistler property owners pay almost three-quarters of the school taxes in the Howe Sound School District because property values are much higher in the RMOW than in other regions of the district.

On Aug. 12 Mayor Hugh O’Reilly and other key players sat down with Finance Minister Gary Collins to discuss the issue in a meeting arranged by MLA Ted Nebbeling.

"I think the report we gave them was pretty compelling," said O’Reilly.

This year the government changed the School Act to allow for more than one tax rate per school district to deal with situations where there are dramatically different property values within the same school district.

Only Tofino, which has been growing almost 10 times as fast as some of the neighbouring regions in its school district, was granted tax relief.

As a result of the tax rate changes, Tofino property owners will save a combined $200,000.

Mayor O’Reilly said that there was a general feeling of unfairness in the tests that were applied to Tofino.

Even though Whistler properties have been skyrocketing in the same way as Tofino properties, Whistler failed to pass one of the tests under which they would also qualify for tax relief.

"Our feeling is that the province needs to take a broader look at municipalities whose assessed property values are growing at a much faster pace," said the municipality’s manager of strategic planning Jennifer Beresford in an earlier interview with Pique Newsmagazine.

"Because if they don’t change the rate and they set one broad rate across the entire province, those municipalities with rapid growth are really being hit hard."

Watson said progress is being made with the tax policy branch and noted that there will be a follow up meeting with the deputy minister of finance at the beginning of October.

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