Full-time residents granted school tax relief 

Most resident homeowners will have at least an extra $470 in their pockets this year after the province announced long-awaited school tax relief for the resort.

The school tax relief will take on two distinct forms in an effort to capture the permanent resident homeowners in Whistler.

The Home Owner’s Grant (HOG) cap has been increased from $525,000 to $2 million. Now residents living in homes with an assessed value of $2 million or less will qualify for the $470 HOG rebates ($745 for seniors.)

In addition, the province has created a separate school tax rate for the resident homeowner population in Whistler. A resident homeowner in the average assessed property valued at $1,043,000 will get roughly $160 in relief based on the new tax rate.

And so that homeowner will get $630 back in total.

The relief brings the school tax bill on the average home in Whistler down from $2,681 to just over $2,000, which is about a 25 per cent reduction in school taxes.

"The property tax relief program will ease the financial burden for ordinary Whistler residents who live here year-round and contribute to the economic and social fabric of this community," Mayor Hugh O’Reilly said at a May 15 press conference with MLA Ted Nebbeling.

School taxes in Whistler have been increasing at a rapid pace as the value of properties climb in the resort.

The ever-increasing tax burden has been putting great pressure on resident homeowners, prompting the local government and a growing number of private citizens to lobby for school tax reform over the years.

Last week’s announcement means the province has finally heard the plight of resident homeowner in the resort.

"It is the long-term residents who we are trying to deal with here," said Nebbeling.

"We avoid long-term residents, or a number of them, (from becoming) victims of the success that they have created in developing the resort.

"I’m just thrilled as your MLA but also as a Whistler resident and a person who has so many friends here in Whistler who are affected..."

Paul O’Mara, who leads the School Tax Action Committee and recently organized a letter writing campaign on the issue, said the relief was more than he expected.

He was pleased that the relief was coming to those who needed it most in the resort.

"I like that it’s a recognition that the community is important," he said at the meeting.

"It’s not about paying high taxes. It’s about equity in taxation."

Because the relief program is targeted to year-round residents, there will be no tax relief for homeowners who are part-time residents. Those homeowners who do not live permanently in the resort will pay the same tax bill as before. At the same time they will not shoulder any of the burden of the school tax relief for permanent residents.

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