Letter on the new Assessment Office Regime

There is a letter today in the Chronicle Herald which is the only mention we have seen in the press about the new assessment regime which we alerted people to in a past post. The new Assessment Office set up which came into final effect on April 1 should be of interest and concern to every ratepayer and one would think that it would be news as it is a major change, yet the press has been absolutely silent about it.

Let’s look at the letter. It is under the title Hefty Hike in the Voice of the People in today’s CH and reads:

Property owners in Annapolis County reacted with shock last week upon opening their tax bills and seeing an additional $9 charge under the guise of an “assessment account services charge.” Some municipal officials claim the cost is a result of downloading by the province, when in fact municipalities now provide assessment services under the umbrella of Property Valuation Services Corporation.

With certainty, only a small fraction of the properties in this province, forest lands in particular, are ever visited by an assessor, yet the charge still applies. The province, however, under authority of the Municipal Government Act, sets the tax rate on forest lands at 25 cents per acre. With this added charge, the amount due on a 10-acre woodlot has gone from $2.50 to $11.50, a 450 per cent increase. I question the legality of whether municipalities can arbitrarily override provincial jurisdiction and levy additional charges on forest resource lands. Under the MGA, it would not appear so.

Annapolis County is the only municipal unit in the region, quite possibly the province, to have levied this fee on property owners. Might the underlying reason for this charge be for ongoing financial commitments by the municipality for a wellness centre at Cornwallis Park?

Frank Chipman, Nictaux West

Emphases and link to PVSC are ours and are not in the original.

Let’s look at the situation apart from Mr. Chipman’s argument about forested land: The Municipalities are both the owners and the clients of the Assessment Office. They pay for the “service” of assessing properties in their jurisdiction ( which they have been doing also in the 2 or 3 year phase in period). They pass this cost on to the ratepayers. As clients of the Assessment Office they have influence- one would think. They also have influence because representatives of Municipalities also sit on the Board of this “corporation”. The PVSC states that this is a non profit municipally controlled corporation. What do you think of this set up? Do you think revenue hungry, financially undiscipined, profligate municipalities should be in “control” of our assessments? Do you think this situation will lead to fair unbiased and reduced assessments (although the corporation claims otherwise) ?

The Property Valuation Services Corporation (PVSC) is a not-for-profit corporation governed by a Board of Directors comprised mainly of municipal representatives. This allows the PVSC to maintain a close relationship with its primary clients, the province’s 55 municipalities, while maintaining the autonomy necessary to ensure a standardization of practice.

Emphases ours. Knowing how people and the world in general works we don’t think so.

Although this is a major change which took place April 1 this year there was no explanation, justification or promotion of this change by the Province which has given up responsibility for assessments, wrongly in our view- or from the Union of NS Municipalities (the new owner of your assessment office which appoints representatives to the Board of PVSC). This kind of Assessment Regime has been instituted in other provinces where there have been multiple complaints.

Added: Of course assessments wouldn’t matter as much if municipalities didn’t use them to hide spending behind, fixing their tax revenue to assessment growth.

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