Change to School Act doesn't help Whistler taxpayers 

Collins says disparity in property values between Whistler and rest of district not great enough

The government has changed the School Act to allow more than one tax rate per school district but Whistler property owners do not qualify and will still pay the majority of its district's taxes.

Despite the huge disparities in property values in the Howe Sound School District, the area did not meet the criteria that would allow Whistler to pay less in school taxes.

Tofino is the only municipality that will have a different school tax rate than the rest of its district this year.

"Tofino has become a major tourist destination and the property values in that one small community have shot up significantly," said Gary Collins, minister of finance.

"There is a real difference between one part of the community and the rest of it.

"Whistler is not nearly as severe a situation, although it does tend towards that and certainly if the challenge in Whistler gets worse over the years ahead, they may end up qualifying for this threshold as well. At this point they don't."

This year Whistler property owners will be paying even more in school taxes as Collins Tuesday announced a 2 per cent increase province-wide to raise about $20 million.

"It's just an inflationary change. There has not been a change in the rate since the mid-90s.

"Whistler is probably in that difficult spot again because it's sort of falling into the Tofino scenario so the numbers might be slightly higher in Whistler but it wouldn't be dramatically higher," said Collins.

The Budget and Fiscal Plan for 2002/2003 to 2004/2005 states:

"The increase on a medium-value home will be less than $20 annually."

But in Whistler where property values increased by 9 to 20 per cent last year, it means property owners here will be shelling out far more money in school taxes.

"I have been looking at this but you have to look at it in the context of the province not just the riding," said Ted Nebbeling, minister of state for community charter and area MLA.

"I've asked the ministry to provide me with a list of how School District 48 and School District 45, which is also in my riding, would be impacted by this (increase)."

Whistler property owners pay the majority of the school tax bill for the Howe Sound School District – 68 per cent in 2000 – because the amount of school taxes paid by each homeowner is a function of property values. Those property values continue to rise disproportionately higher in Whistler than in other parts of the district.


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