School Tax Action Committee takes action 

After boycotting his school taxes more than a decade ago to no avail, longtime local Hans Kögler says it’s time for a more aggressive approach.

He suggests the municipal government should withhold all the school tax money collected this year on behalf of the province, over $30 million.

Although an impossible suggestion and not something the municipality would ever consider doing, it highlights the sheer frustration of many local residents who have been faced with increasing school taxes over the years.

School taxes are a function of the value of property. As property values continue to rise in Whistler, school taxes have been increasing accordingly.

"We’ve had nothing to do with this escalation in real estate values," said Kögler, a general contractor who has lived in Whistler for more than 30 years.

"Events pass you by and you’re left high and dry."

Galvanized by a possible 23 per cent increase in residential school taxes for 2003, a handful of locals recently started a grassroots campaign for tax relief in Whistler.

"We don’t want to be treated specially," said Paul O’Mara who organized last weekend’s school tax meeting at the Spruce Grove Field House.

"What we want is to be treated fairly."

Roughly 30 locals who attended the School Tax Action Committee meeting agreed to embark on an aggressive letter writing, e-mail and faxing campaign over the next week before the provincial government announces the school tax mil rate for the district in mid-April. The mil rate determines the amount of school taxes paid.

Through their campaign, they want the province to take notice of the working man’s plight in the resort.

"We’re not talking about the rich cats," said Kögler.

"It’s the people who live here, the backbone of the community who make the town tick."

Last year school taxes on the average single family home were $2,273. That number is expected to jump to $2,664 this year. Last year the average school tax bill in Squamish was $553.

The disparities between the two communities become even wider when the Home Owner Grant takes effect. The HOG is a $470 rebate from the government on homes worth less than $525,000.

This brought the average school tax bill in Squamish down to $83 last year.

That means Whistler homeowners paid 27 times more than Squamish homeowners in 2003.

As Whistler property values continue to rise, fewer homeowners are eligible for the HOG, exacerbating the inequalities within the district.

The average single family home in Whistler is valued at over $1 million in 2003. An estimated number of half the permanent resident homeowners, or roughly 1,200 homeowers, were eligible for the HOG last year in Whistler.

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