Let us repeat it again

Property assessments are not taxes and they are not revenue. As we have said in many previous posts,  one of the most central concepts of municipal government is not understood by journalists, citizens or mayors and councillors themselves. Or there is a willful attempt to deceive the public on the part of councils (with the help of a submissive press).

Here, in another part of the province, is another article repeating the inaccurate mantra that capped assessments curb revenue. [ The mayor of Wolfville once said this too. ]

This year, the cap removes $39,297,200 taxable assessment from the Municipality of Barrington coffers.

No, the capping of assessments takes nothing from the coffers. The council may wish to cut its budget aggressively but we suspect this will not happen. We suspect the budget will stay pretty much the same (or go up) and in order to obtain the needed revenue the council will set the rate where it needs to be to obtain it, that is higher. Of course when assessments were rising it should have been dropping the rate to mostly compensate. This is how the system works, or how it should work.

Citizens should not rely on the assessment mechanism to lower taxes. There needs to be relentless reminders to our elected representatives on Council that they must control their budgets. Had they done this in the good times when assessments were rising instead of inflating their budgets there would be fewer calls for cuts now. OR they could have put the windfall they collected to good use by paying off town debt.

Instead now they have overweight budgets built on binge taxes they took unnecessarily, by stealth one might say, and now realise they will not be able to hide behind the mask of  “holding the rate”.

This line is also inaccurate in the article:

The program limits the amount of assessment that municipalities can use to calculate your property taxes.

This seems to imply that municipalities will not be able to raise rates to maintain the tax inflow to its budget.  We might wish this were so but it is not so. There is no limitation on this power of municipalities except the voters voice articulated to those around the table or ultimately at the ballot box.

Regarding capped assessments.:What these do is shift some of the tax burden of the budget “take” from one set of taxpayers to another. We are sympathetic to the intent to relieve some taxpayers from “unusual” assessment increases but our experience is that this sort of regulatory tampering often just worsens a problem rather than solving it.

HRM has stepped back from tax reform. We think that those who favor it should work first on accurately informing people of the system we have now. Perhaps then they might be more willing to leave it behind.

Many thanks to Bob Ashley, CAO of Berwick, for alerting us via Facebook  to the article quoted above.

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