Category Archives: Town Finances/taxes

What did we tell you?

Here’s a quote from the article  in a recent Advertiser by single W….

According to MacLean, an increase of $17 million in assessment was a boon to the town budgeting process this year. [emph ours]

Why? Why should this affect expenses at all? WE HAVE SAID IT BEFORE AND WILL SAY IT AGAIN – rising ( or decreasing) assessments should have no effect on whether it costs more (or less) for the administration to manage town affairs via the budget.

We are disappointed in MacLean – we thought he might turn out to be above this sort of deception. Or was he was misquoted?

But the town keeps the rate the same ( to snow taxpayers into thinking taxes aren’t rising)  and reap the windfall. But tax rates are not taxes any more than assessment is revenue.

Residents ( and Councillors) should be alert to this trick and ask Councillors (and staff)  to justify every  dollar increase in the cost of running the town.

Acadia might be trying to instill critical thinking but it is noticeably absent in the thinking of our councillors  and – it seems- most voters.

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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.

Wolfville’s Wild spending

Another in the series of submissions from David Daniels also available in The Mud Creek News.This one is on a subject we have been complaining about for years.

ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS GONE WILD?
Compare what Wolfville pays in “Administrative” costs, according to the Town’s recently produced Consolidated Financial Statements, dated March 31, 2011, to the same line item for the Towns of Antigonish and Kentville.  I’ve included the most recent, 2006 StatsCan population figures. 
General Administrative – Administrative Costs:
Wolfville (pop. 3772)      —-     $857,044

   

Antigonish (pop. 4236)   —-     $504,790
Kentville (pop. 5815)      —-     $606,408
Dig a little deeper.  For Wolfville only, in the budget year 2003-04, the cost of administrative salaries was $234,862; for 2008-09, $329,850; and for the present fiscal year, administrative salaries are at $407,000.  That is an increase of over 73% in an 8 year span.

David A. Daniels

Sound familiar?

Does any of this remind you of Wolfville?

“It’s a ticking tax time bomb,” … Read the rest

We are just a microcosm of Toronto.

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?

AIMS Municipal Performance Report

The 2nd Annual Nova Scotia Municipal Performance Report is out. It is ” a compilation of information from 2006 to 2008. It reveals the performance of municipal governments at fulfilling their responsibilities.”

In the first chart 55 municipalities are listed from most effective to least.  See how far you have to scroll down before you find Wolfville which is ranked 46th out of 55!  More detailed analysis follows where the municipalities are listed in alphabetical order.  Here is the link to the report (PDF)

 

UPDATE -a detail from one of the informative charts:

June 17, 2011

IRONY

Paul Withers for CBC TV does a story this evening on the financial stresses on NS towns with Wolfville as an example, streets that need paving, work NOT being done, including an interview with Keith Irving going on about the infrastructure deficit and then the visuals switch to show where work IS being done  –  The mayor’s Clock Park, where no expense is spared. Did CBC notice the contradiction?

We’ll add a link  to the segment if we find one. For now this will have to do.

UPDATE: Here is the link to the CBC news at 6  for June 17th segment: The Wolfville clip is at about 7:50 onward.