Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Hands in your pockets, oh their hands in your pocket.

The other shoe is about to drop regarding the recent provincial assessment, as it appears that increases in assessments will bring a higher tax bill to some residents of Prince Rupert.

That apparently is the tidings from Mayor Herb Pond, who said that the people who will see their taxes go up this year are those whose homes increased in value by more than 20 to 30 per cent.

Prince Rupert at the moment is in the rather unenviable position of having its major industry tax base at a very low level, having been reduced by 28% due to the agreement between the City and Sun Wave Forest Products, which sees that company enjoying a tax holiday for the moment.

With that situation and other smaller industries having left town in recent years, the onus is shifted more and more on the remaining local residential and commercial tax payers to provide a larger share of funds for city purposes. That pool of revenue could have dwindled as well with the recent out migration of population leaving the city for greener pastures. Those that have remained behind find themselves hoisting a larger and larger burden each year.

Residential owners who feel that their assessment is a bit above what it should be, have the option of appealing their assessment to a review board, which would serve to help keep their tax rates in line as well.

The current economy of the city doesn't leave much in the way of wiggle room for the city, while there are many proposed projects being floated about, at the moment there's not much in the way of industrial development beyond the Container Port.

Without any large increase in the industrial base and the jobs that would go with it on the way, nor an apparent appetite at City Hall for any form of cutbacks to city services or selling of assets, the money has to come from somewhere. In this case, somewhere would seem to be the long suffering local rate payers of the city.

The Mayor and city staff explained the rather convoluted process between property assessment and tax increases in a story in the Daily News.

Assessments mean tax hikes in works for some
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Page one

The people who will see their taxes go up this year are those whose homes increased in value by more than 20 to 30 per cent, said Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond.

Following a presentation by B.C. Assessment at council last night, Pond noted that although the average home in Prince Rupert increased by 25 per cent, some did see even bigger rises.
“If you moved up with the market, you will pay roughly the same amount of taxes as you did last year, but if you sort of scooted way ahead of everybody else, you could get nailed,” he said.
Scott Sitter, Deputy Assessor for the Northwest for the B.C. Assessment Authority, said they did print warnings to that affect on those notices where assessment were above average.

Last year, the average home in Prince Rupert was valued at $120,600 and this year is valued at $150,000.

The city’s overall assessment inventory increased from $928 million last year to just under $1.1 billion this year, with the residential portion increasing by more than 20 per cent.

Meanwhile, the major industry section of the list dropped by 28 per cent based on the city’s agreement with the new owners of the Watson Island Pulp Mill, Sun Wave Forest Products, not to pay taxes.

“I think the real important piece for the public is if you think your home was assessed too high, compared to other homes that might be comparable, you need to get involved in the appeal process,” said Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond.

Jim Bruce, the city’s acting financial manager, explained that tax levels for individual owners are based on the assessment multiplied by the tax line rate.

“As the assessments go up, the tax rate can go down. The tax rate is based on how much money the city needs to generate based on taxation after all the revenue sources are considered,” said Bruce.

The city looks at the assessment rates sent to them by B.C. Assessment and then sets the tax rate, he said.

If someone’s assessment goes up and was the average for their class, in this case 23 per cent for residential, Bruce said they should get the average increase, if there is one.

However if a person’s home increased greater than the average, their tax increase would also exceed the average.

Sitter said the inquiry time is very important to B.C. Assessment.

Property owners who feel that their property assessment does not reflect the market value of as July 1,2006 or see incorrect information on their notice should contact the B.C. Assessment office indicated on their notice as soon as possible.

If a property owner is still concerned about their assessment after speaking to one of their staff, they may submit a written request by Jan. 31, for an independent review by a Property Assessment Review Panel.

The panels, which are independent of B.C. Assessment, are appointed annually by the Ministry of Small Business and Revenue and meet between Feb. 1 and March 15 to hear formal complaints about conclusions made by B.C. Assessment.

“Most concerns are dealt with well before the review panel,” said Sitter.

No comments: