This letter was addressed to Finance Minister Gary Collins.
Re: Provincial residential Property Taxes in Whistler
Thank you for you reply of 8 April to my last letter to you of 2 February on this matter. I am, however, still concerned that no direct response or comment has ever been received either from you or from your Ministry officials to the written submissions and proposals for tax relief for permanent resident owners in Whistler made by myself and other members of the Whistler Scholl Tax Action Committee dating as far back as September of 2001. Furthermore, in spite of our repeated requests, we have never been afforded the opportunity to meet with your officials to try and work together on an acceptable plan for tax relief.
Put very simply, our proposals have contained two key elements:
1. That, in keeping with its own legislative authority and declared policy, the Provincial government set a special tax rate for residential property in Whistler as if it were a stand-alone school district. Applying the Province's allocation formula this way would produce a mil rate of 2.27184 for Whistler rather than the rate of 2.5644 already indicated for the entire Howe Sound District a reduction of 11.4 per cent and lowering the province's total residential property tax in Whistler by $2 million.
This would also bring Whistler more into line with West Vancouver where the average assessment is lower and yet their mil rate is also lower than in Whistler. It would also still leave the province with an increase of $1.2 million over the already excessive tax levied in 2002 plus an additional $300,000 due to owners losing their Home Owner Grant this year.
2. Assuming that it is now too late to pass legislation eliminating the assessment cap of $525,000 disqualifying permanent resident owners from receiving the provincial Home Owners Grant this year, at least allow the municipality to claw back a large portion of the provincial tax relief and pay it out to all permanent resident owners here in the form of a Municipal Supplemental Home Owners' Grant. At an average supplemental grant of say $500 for each of about 2,400 such owners, this would direct about $1.2 million of the tax relief to local residents thus achieving the very solution that you stated in your letter you were working towards, that is:
"a solution that balances our common desire to address concerns of local residents, while not providing an undue benefit to people (non-resident owners) who have leisure properties."
The net result would be a 4.5 per cent reduction in total taxes for all residential property owners and a further reduction of 6.8 per cent in the total taxes otherwise payable by all permanent resident owners.
If you and the other members of the provincial Cabinet have the political will to actually do what you say you are committed to doing, this solution can still be implemented for this year. We are ever hopeful but becoming increasingly discouraged.
J. Garry Watson
The sport of mountain biking in Whistler is huge and there are few areas on the planet that can rival the trails and vibe that we have created through the efforts of many dedicated individuals in the community as well as WORCA and its ongoing programs.
It was interesting to read Paul Makis letter last week concerning the efforts to host large scale bike events in the valley and his take on the situation regarding the Whistler Gravity Festival and the Whistler Summer Session. I think it is time that we realize that bike events dont make much money; trust me I know only too well. Who makes the money from events is the resort and the various businesses who accommodate, feed and refresh the people who come to participate or view the action. In the past financial support has been harder to get than a bagel in Mecca from the folks who should be helping these events succeed. These parties are primarily Tourism Whistler, Intrawest and the Chamber of Commerce.
Tourism Whistler has been terrible in supporting local events and continues to give lip service to something they dont understand but embrace in all of their thrilled statements. The money that WORCA gets from the RMOW should be coming from Tourism Whistler along with funding for locally organized events that bring people to our valley. Getting out-of-town organizers who dont have a clue about local resources and trail networks to put on events is just plain stupid and very disheartening to the local cycling community. Sustainability starts at home!
Whistler-Blackcomb has also not been forthcoming with adequate support for local events. Partnerships with Coca Cola, General Motors, Telus and Nintendo etc. are severely limiting in attracting event sponsorship from alternative sources. They should have the first right of refusal for events but not thats it! No Coke? Lets get Pepsi or Dr. Pepper. It would be in both W-Bs and its partners best interests to make some funds available in a discretionary budget each year giving the partners great local exposure in locally produced events. This type of support would go a long way in helping to heal some lingering wounds in the cycling community that are still apparent. God only knows how many billions of dollars in Four Seasons vacation properties were sold to people who witnessed the vitality of the resort in the summer due to these two-wheeled events which began with the Can Am Challenge, Cheakamus Challenge, BRC Series, Whistler Fall Fork Fest, Cactus Cup, Procom, Summer Session and JoyRide.
By the way the Fat Tire Village Crit was started by Tom Hillard from Specialized and organized by Tess Sewell.
The Chamber of Commerce is another piece of the puzzle that needs to bring something to the table. Its members have the most to gain from successful local events as organizers need resource help in the community, from volunteers to printing and insurance. I realize that the chamber is not in the best financial situation to contribute funds but some creativity and manpower support certainly are an option.
Finally, I would like to say what a great supporter the RMOW has been for mountain biking in the valley. We should all consider ourselves very lucky to have someone like Keith Bennett in our corner.
I am a parent of a student attending Pemberton Secondary School. I have been a parent and student advocate, in the Howe Sound School District, since our eldest daughter started school in 1983. Today I received a letter and survey form from the Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Linda Rossler, which has prompted me to write this letter. It would appear that the Howe Sound School District is yet again struggling with budget difficulties in their effort to deliver a "quality educational service" to students in the Howe Sound School District.
Parents are being asked if they "support the maintenance of school services using a modified school calendar Yes or No." The proposal is to reduce "the number of days of instruction by 20 days." "This reduction in number of days is projected to save in the range of $250,000 over the year." (Approx. $20,000 per school.) "Attached you will also find a survey form that asks you to tell us how you would prefer those 20 days distributed if you too want to maintain a quality educational service in this way. We recognize it is not the ideal. However the alternatives are reduced services in graduation offerings, class size, cleaning schools teacher librarians, library clerical assistants, counseling services, student support services to students with special needs, administrator time for instructional support, Outreach and adult education programs, and trained technology staff." The above services have already been steadily declining due to continual, annual cuts made over past years.
The message I am receiving from this letter is that the publicly funded educational services essential to our students success, now and in the future, are declining rapidly, and are in grave danger of disappearing. The students of our schools are the future of our province and our country. The provincial government and the school districts have an obligation to ensure that every child has the opportunity to obtain a meaningful education.
I feel there are many other avenues to explore before reducing services of the very people our Public Education System of British Columbia was meant to serve.
In the Howe Sound School District the following operational costs, and items should be investigated and trimmed before we begin to take from the students, and the support network closest to them, in their schools:
1. Howe Sound School District #48 - Million Plus - School Board Office administrative salary expenditures for this small 13-school district.
2. Real Estate holdings of the Howe Sound School District not in use (ie. Coast Mountain Outdoor School).
3. International Education Program, and its conflicting administration. When concerns have been voiced regarding this programs viability, and accountability, information has not been forthcoming. The accounting for this program appears to be embedded.
From these three areas enough fat could be trimmed, by way of improving efficiency or axing completely. This would save much more than the $20,000 per school in the district presently being proposed, and guarantee a "quality educational service" for our children.
Education Minister Christy Clarke has just announced a costly initiative to train principals of schools to enforce teaching staff accountability. Who will be trained or appointed to hold the Ministry of Education administration, and the school district administration accountable? The new "district review team" process (accountability process), recently completed in the Howe Sound School District, did not identify the operational cost items I have noted as needing investigation.
Parents! Speak out against the erosion of our public education system before it is too late!
Re: Whistler Secondary to adopt semester system (Pique, May 2, 2003).
Surveys of WSS students and parents reveal that the clear majority support the quarter system. Nonetheless, the WSS staff "needed to make a change" to the semester system. Fait accompli.
WSS students receive a bitter little lesson in realpolitik: The vested interests of authority will overrule public opinion at every level of human endeavour whenever deemed necessary and thought possible.
By the way, without evidence from any new, recent survey it is illegitimate for the principal to state that parental support for the quarter system has been recently waning.
Silly kids, the educational system is not for your needs.
I should like to tell you a wonderful and true story about people of Whistler.
A few evenings ago I went to the Brewhouse for a beer and a cup of soup. Two young girls were at the next table and we smiled. Then I read my book and did not notice their leaving.
When I came to go I found that they complete strangers to me had paid my bill.
Whistler, despite its huge houses and other cancers, must still be a good place to attract such people.
I wish that I knew them.