Category Archives: Nova Scotia

A letter on the Property Valuation Services Corp

This letter in the Chronicle Herald this morning is worth noting. Since it may eventually disappear from the Voice of the People” we copy it here in full to preserve it for ratepayers future reference.

Not-so-minor details

In a Feb. 25 opinion piece, Kathy Gillis, CEO of PVSC (Property Valuation Services Corporation), says, “All property owners are assigned a PIN number for their assessment account and by using the PIN, details of their accounts are readily accessible.”

In fact, the information is limited and what is provided is not helpful in an appeal. One page of the online report is a map of the property, a second page deals only with the CAP program, and one-half of the third page is devoted to the address. None of this is useful. The remainder is sketchy, at best.

My own for 2011 and 2012 had significant differences. The construction went from “average” to “good,” the area from 2,060 sq. ft. to 2,017 sq. ft., and the garage that was detached in February 2011 became attached in February 2012. No work was done on the house since 2008 so it must have been magic.

The PRC report, on the other hand, is usually six or more pages with breakdowns of the assessment and dwelling details such as number of fixtures, heating details and the quality grade.

The important thing that is not available is the comparators report, which Ms. Gillis neglected to discuss. One has to ask for it and may have to wait months to get it. Few know it exists. I had to request mine from PVSC’s freedom of information officer (although I did not have to file a formal request).

[I have left off the letter writers name, although you may see it now at source]

The Assessment Office, which was supposed to be at arm’s length from  municipal government, was never very independent, prone as it was to reassessment requests from various town administrations,  but now with this corporate model ( which they copied from other provinces where it has proved to be a disaster for taxpayers), the municipalities are both clients and overseers of the “service” (Roy Brideau used to be on the Board). Note that the PVSC gets paid partly on the basis of assessment value. That is, the higher the assessments the more they get paid by the municipality. Isn’t that a sweet deal?

One thing is sure, taxpayers are not served well. The formula or information the PVSC uses to come to a figure is a complete mystery and prone to all kinds of adjustments behind closed doors, always to the taxpayers detriment.

Municipal administrations consider assessments to be their “revenue stream” (which they are not and should not be) and they want to keep it flowing at higher and higher amounts.

Please follow the rest of the links from our past posts on this subject (some were already linked specifically in the above text ) – we are tired of repeating ourselves.

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Municipal Madhouse

Does municipal government need reform? You betcha!

Shame!

It’s not just Wolfville.

Gaspereau Ave Appeal

David Daniels has submitted this to pass on. It is from the latest issue of the Mud Creek News. Watch for more items in the next few days.

THE GASPEREAU AVE. APT. APPEAL
The developer appealed the decision by Council to reject the proposed 4-storey apartment building along Gaspereau Ave to the Utility and Review Board. The developer’s solicitor sought to adjourn the appeal.  “Our client wishes to explore whether a redesign of the project will meet the approval of the Town Council by way of development agreement while reserving its rights with respect to the refusal which is the subject matter of this appeal.”  The Town agreed to the requested adjournment.  
Mr. Morrison, the Town’s Director of Planning, previously negotiated the development agreement which the Council unanimously rejected.
I assumed, correctly, that Mr. Morrison would again be representing the Town in the new negotiations with the developer.  I asked at the Dec. 5th Committee of Council meeting whether Mr. Morrison would be receiving any direction from Town Council concerning the negotiations.  The answer was “no.”  I did not ask “why not” but that surely is a question which Councilors may wish to ponder.  I was told that Diane Mombourquette, the CAO, would be joining Mr. Morrison at the negotiation table.  
David A. Daniels

MLA pensions

We have respect for the work of AIMS and have referred to their reports, such as the Municipal report card, several times over the years in our posts.  AIMS  has thoughts concerning  NS MLA pensions and here is an excerpt on this subject, with some links, from their online newsletter, The Beacon. 

AIMS Director of Research recommends eliminating MLA pensions

The culture of entitlement surrounding MLA pensions in Nova Scotia – and other provinces – has been a key focus for AIMS in recent weeks.

AIMS Director of Research Don McIver is recommending the elimination of MLA pensions in Nova Scotia , or at least, replacing them with fixed-contribution plans or an RRSP allowance. AIMS issued a press release on the topic and generated important discussion in the province. AIMS ’ recommendations were mentioned in the Chronicle Herald as well as on News 95.7.

In addition, McIver wrote an op-ed entitled MLA Platinum Pensions: Till the end of time?, which appeared in the Chronicle Herald. In this commentary, McIver McIver says the panel should have looked beyond the narrow mandate of pensions alone, and considered the total remuneration of members, including their per diems and perks. “They should have taken note of the level of responsibility—recognizing our small population—as well as our ability to pay,” says McIver. On average, Nova Scotians receive significantly lower incomes than in wealthier provinces. “If we receive Nova Scotia wages, so should our legislators.”

The current MLA pension plan entitles members with as little as five years service, including those who are retiring or defeated, to collect a pension as early as age 45. A government minister with just 15 years service could draw more than $100,000 each year for the rest of his or her life. If they are still serving at age 71 they could collect that pension while receiving their paycheque.

Most Nova Scotians do not have a pension plan.

“In a world of gold-plated public pension plans,” says McIver, “ Nova Scotia ’s Member’s Plan is diamond studded.” …

You might also wish to follow the AIMS blog.

We are still irked by Wolfville CAO’s diamond studded retirement paid for by the largely unaware resident taxpayers.

Our Debts

In case any Canadians are feeling smug about our debt situation compared to US debt woes we offer this cautionary article to consider:

Our federal debt is about 35% of GDP while the U.S. passed 100% on Tuesday, and Ottawa’s deficits are only 2% of GDP rather than Washington or London’s staggering 10%. But let me try to wipe the smile off your face.

For starters, a more realistic on-book number for Canadian public debt is over 80% of GDP. That’s what the IMF gets by including provincial as well as federal debt (for instance, Quebec’s $238 billion) and such “hard” unfunded liabilities as public sector pension funds.

An even bigger reason for worry is soft unfunded liabilities for things such as the Canada Pension Plan and the Canada Health Act. In 2006 the Chief Actuary of Canada formally estimated the unfunded liabilities of the CPP at $620 billion. …Then there’s infrastructure.

Read the rest. And what about Municipal debt? So you had better listen up Municipal councillors everywhere, and especially in spendthrift Wolfville. Are you listening to Councillor Irving or ignoring him?

Rezoning fails

Sent in by David Daniels.

March 23, 2011 12:12 PM

 

Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations Minister John MacDonell, today, March 23, announced his decision to turn down an application to re-zone agricultural land in Greenwich to allow development.
The application was rejected because the Municipality of the County of Kings did not demonstrate the need for the additional land.
“While I am satisfied by the municipality’s explanation that they would do all that was necessary to protect the Town of Wolfville’s drinking water supply, there was no demonstrated pressing need for development of this protected agricultural land,” said Mr. MacDonell.
The municipality applied to have 153 hectares of land, which lies between Greenwich and Wolfville, re-zoned from agricultural to residential and commercial.
The Statement of Provincial Interest about agricultural land requires municipalities to preserve valuable farm land where reasonable. The statement is intended to serve as a guiding principle to help government departments, municipalities and people make decisions about land use.
When a municipality wants to change its planning documents, a provincial review is required under the Municipal Government Act.
In 2010, the province allowed 24 hectares of agricultural land in nearby Port Williams to be re-zoned to allow for development.
The minister said that the province will consider any future applications from municipalities for re-zoning as long as the application clearly demonstrates the need for the additional land.

How far do we go to legislate lifestyle?

That should be – How far are they willing to go to legislate lifestyle? Isn’t that a good question?  We are glad we are not the only ones asking it.

A Kentville tobacco seller already in a legal battle with the province says freedom of choice is being limited, with regulations slowly eroding constitutional freedoms and rights.

Mader’s Tobacco Store owner Bob Gee has now written to Kentville Mayor Dave Corkum and council to express his disappointment and concern with a recent bylaw banning smoking on all town-owned and -leased property, including streets and sidewalks. Gee feels the bylaw reflects the slippery slope the town, community and country is treading. He has been in court for several years fighting regulations that limit his ability to display product in his store.

Kentville’s “bylaw does not reflect the larger issue at hand, which is really about how we as individuals educate ourselves, our families and one another so that the freedom to choose does not become hindered through a state of dictatorship,” Gee wrote.

You have probably already read the rest.

…people may openly consume alcohol on outdoor, public patios of drinking establishments and can take their children into the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation – but not into Gee’s shop.

Crazy?

The most important decision is who makes the decisions.