Assessment bungling

We advise every Nova Scotia property owner to read this article carefully. It is like looking into a crystal ball to the future for us since they are planning the same sort of assessment corporation for Nova Scotia.

…the [Ont] Municipal Property Assessment Corporation ‚ branded by Marin as “cutthroat” in a scathing March report ‚ needs time to change the way it decides how much properties are worth. The freeze in assessment values, however, does not mean property tax bills will remain the same. That’s because municipalities set new tax rates every year, which are applied to the current assessed values of properties.Among other problems, Marin found MPAC relied too heavily on computerized appraisals of properties and not enough on actual selling prices in neighbourhoods.“We need the breathing space to be able to actually bring about these recommendations,” said Sorbara. MPAC said the effort will cost about $22 million, mainly for another 225 staff to inspect properties, gather better data and upgrade complex computer systems.

A lot of money (natch) and who pays? We will, the taxpayers. And WHY?!

The government also came under fire because there is no plan to reform what some observers say are fundamental flaws in the property tax system.They include concerns that basing assessments on current market value bears no relation to an individual’s ability to pay or
municipal services used
, and that property taxes should not be used to help fund programs like welfare and social housing. [
in Wolfville it isn’t even anything so laudatory ]

Now they are talking about something else-municipal budgets. There are two issues involved here which reporters insist on muddling. Assessments determine the SHARE of taxes property owners pay. The idea is that those with more expensive houses and bigger properties pay more of the tax pie relatively speaking than a smaller householder. But the tax pie needed to run a Town or City doesn’t necessarily get bigger if assessments go up across the board – unless the municipality increases their budget – legitimately or illegitimately.

Rising assessments in a general way have nothing to do with burgeoning budgets, or needn’t, except they present a convenient temptation and excuse for spendthrift municipalities which are greedy for funds. As noted above freezing asessments, even lowering assessments, will do no good if municipalities decide to spend more and more and more, on more and more and more programs which require more and more staff. They will just raise the rate.

Problems will continue to fester, said Bob Topp, chairman the Coalition After Property Tax Reform.”If you’ve got a little bungalow in north Toronto and somebody builds a giant house next to you, your property goes up in value. Your services haven’t changed. Your ability to pay the tax hasn’t changed.”

Indeed it hasn’t but municipalities ignore this. If the assessment increases are widespread the tax rate should be adjusted downward accordingly. But it is easier for administrations not to be thrifty.
Therein lies the problem. Ratepayers have to get it through their heads that assessments should be a completely separate issue from the amount needed to provide services. It is only because they are so fixedly linked in the minds of our municipal representatives that they are able to use these rising assessments to go beyond providing decent, basic services. Ratepayers must insist on thrift from their municipalities. Budgets must be examined closely by councillors and every expense justifiied to residents.

Yes, assessments should be accurate so one homeowner doesn’t pay more of the tax pie than is his due but municipal governments must also stop considering increasing tax assessment figures (whether accurate or inaccurate) as blank cheques to spend more.

Andrew Coyne has an even better idea. Via pro-libertate


Comments are closed.