Assessment system needs review says Chamber of Commerce executive director

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TRURO - For the eighth consecutive year, assessment rates have increased in the Truro/Colchester County area.

And that fact does not sit well with Tim Tucker, executive director of the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce.

"I rarely talk to anybody, homeowner or business owner that has agreed with their assessment," Tucker said.

"An increase in assessment value for anybody, business owner or homeowner, is not necessarily indicative of an increase in that person's ability to pay. And that's where the real difficulty lies with this system."

The residential assessment base in Colchester County increased by six per cent over last year while the commercial assessment rate increased by .7 per cent.

In Truro, the residential rate went up by 2.8 per cent while the commercial assessment value increased by 11 per cent.

Stewiacke, meanwhile, saw its assessment base increase by 5.7 per cent on the residential side and by 1.9 per cent for commercial.

Assessment values are determined by the province but municipal taxes are based on the assessments attached to individual properties.

Property assessments for this year, however, are based on market values as of January, 2011. Sales figures from six months on each side of that date are used in setting the values.

"It's an extremely complex thing," Tucker said. "There's very little information it seems on how things (increases) are calculated ...

"There seems to be a lot of confusion over the whole system."

Philip Schofield, a spokesperson with the province's Property Valuation Services Corp., said assessment rates are calculated from a combination of new construction and property sales values from a given area.

The commercial assessment value for Truro increased 11 per cent from $472 million in 2012 to $524 million for this year.

Residential assessments saw a 2.8 per cent increase, from $624 million to $641 million.

In Colchester County, commercial assessments increased by .7 per cent from the 2012 figure of $504.7 million to about $508 million.

The county's residential assessments, meanwhile, increased six per cent from $2.4 billion to $2.5 billion.

In Stewiacke, commercial assessments increased by 1.9 per cent from $19.8 million $20.2 million.

Residential assessments in Stewiacke rose by 5.7 per cent from $75 million to $79 million.

The Provincial Capped Assessment Program rate, which is set by the annual increase in the Nova Scotia Consumer Price Index, is 1.4 per cent for 2013.

Property owners who are eligible for the cap will see a market value plus a capped value on their assessment forms.

"And you would be taxed on whichever is the lower," Schofield said.

While the cap program may offer some relief to taxpayers, from Tucker's perspective, the time has come for an overall review of the way the assessment values and municipal taxes are determined.

"At the very least, discussion has to be started on how we collect municipal taxes and whether there is another way to collect them that would be more fair to everybody," he said.

"The real difficulty, I guess, with the system as a whole, is that in a lot of cases there doesn't seem to be any rhyme nor reason as to why increase are happening."

Just because there have been increased sales or home improvements in a given area, doesn't meant the value of everyone's home also increased, Tucker said. "But chances are, your property value is going up and therefore the amount of taxes you pay is going up as well. It becomes extremely unbalanced and unfair at some point," he said.

"We continue to see assessment go up regardless of whether anyone has done any work on their home or business and it certainly makes you question whether the system is fair."

Anyone who doesn't agree with their assessment, however, can file an appeal.

As well property owners can use their Assessment Account Number and PIN access number featured on their assessment notice to view detailed information on their individual property by accessing the section called My Property Report.

Across Nova Scotia, the overall property assessment base grew by $5.5 Billion from 2012 to $95 billion. That includes $74 billion in residential assessment and $21 billion in commercial assessment.

Property assessment values for the past five years in rounded numbers:

2013

Colchester County

Residential market: $2.5 billion - Per cent change: 6%

Commercial market: $508 million - Per cent change .07

Truro

Residential market: $641 million - Per cent change: 2.8 %

Commercial market: $524 million - Per cent change: 11%

Stewiacke

Residential market: $19.8 million - Per cent change: 5.7%

Commercial market: $20.2 million. - Per cent change: 1.9%

2012

Colchester County

Residential market: $2.4 billion - Per cent change: 6%

Commercial market: $504.7 million - Per cent change 1%

Truro

Residential market: $623.6 million - Per cent change: 6%

Commercial market: $472 million - Per cent change: 16%

Stewiacke

Residential market: $74.7 million - Per cent change: 6%

Commercial market: $19.8 million. - Per cent change: -2

2011

Colchester County

Residential market: $2.2 billion - Per cent change: 6%

Commercial market: $498 million - Per cent change: 2%

Truro

Residential market: $590 million - Per cent change: 5%

Commercial market: $406 million - Per cent change: 6%

Stewiacke

Residential market: $70 million - Per cent change: 8%

Commercial market: $20 million. - Per cent change: 3%

2010

Colchester County

Residential market: $2.1 billion - Per cent change: 10%

Commercial market: $487 million - Per cent change: 1%

Truro

Residential market: $560 million - Per cent change: 7%

Commercial market: $383 million - Per cent change: 6%

Stewiacke

Residential market: $65 million - Per cent change: 6%

Commercial market: $19.5 million. - Per cent change: 2%

2009

Colchester County

Residential market: $1.9 billion - Per cent change: 9%

Commercial market: $481 million - Per cent change: 3%

Truro

Residential market: $522 million - Per cent change: 7%

Commercial market: $363 million - Per cent change: 6%

Stewiacke

Residential market: $61 million - Per cent change: 18%

Commercial market: $19.1 million. - Per cent change: 35%

 

Organizations: Truro and District Chamber of Commerce, Property Valuation Services

Geographic location: Colchester County, Stewiacke, Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • Kevin
    January 28, 2013 - 07:56

    Firstly these assessments are too aggressive and are just a sneaky way to amount to a continuous tax increase. My last house was assessed for over $230,000 and being for sale for two years sold for $198,000. Oh you can apply for a cap but take the risk of having a big increase say if you put some drywall on your basement or some houses nearby are selling much higher. The municipalities can pat themselves on the back and boast how they have not increased taxes or only a modest amount. In truth the increase is large and automatic. The increase is well above the cost of living and certainly well above the average pay increase which is below cost of living increases. Like many I haven't got a pay increase for many years and this continuous tax increase under the guise of assessment increase makes things tougher every year. I'm always looking for ways to cut back and this tax grab just makes it worse.

  • Krista
    January 28, 2013 - 06:34

    My property assessment has gone up $110 000 in 8 years! With no improvements to the property...no garage, additions, or deck...all we have done is replace a falling down shed. I haven't even put gravel in my driveway! 3 years ago we could even get a viewing on our property at a list price less than the assessment value! When are these increases going to stop! "Philip Schofield, a spokesperson with the province's Property Valuation Services Corp., said assessment rates are calculated from a combination of new construction and property sales values from a given area." My 25+ year old home is being assessed based on new home construction?! Ans the massive houses down the street being sold a rediculous prices affect it too?! Theis system needs to be looked at honestly and changed. Pretty soon, I'll have to sell the house as I can't afford the taxes on it!