John Cheraz got his property tax bill during the first week of March. He didn't agree with the $14,800 increase in the assessed value of his Saint John home and filed an objection.
Last month, after more than 20 weeks of waiting, he and his wife were finally notified the original billing was in error. But their assessment increase wasn't just cancelled, it was slashed by $36,000 — more than double the original increase.
"We were expecting to stay flat or maybe go down a little bit and were a little surprised it went down that far," said Cheraz. "My wife and I feel that's pretty successful."
New Brunswick property assessment controversies have largely receded from the headlines in recent weeks but the effort to fix thousands of inflated tax bills generated by a new assessment system the province rushed into service last winter has been quietly moving forward all summer with some surprisingly generous results for homeowners.
In the Cherazes' case, their new assessment lowered the taxable value of their home well below where it was last year. and saved the couple $649.58 on their property tax bill.
It was a result John Cheraz had not even hoped for when he first asked for a review, although other homeowners have been having similar experiences.
On Evergreen Drive in Moncton, Bill Foster was surprised in August when his challenge of an $11,000 assessment increase on his home resulted in a $57,900 decrease.
'I thought maybe the government, relative to all the heat they've been taking, was being a little enthusiastic about making adjustments.' - Bill Foster
It was a much bigger win than he expected.
"What I was really impressed with is there didn't seem to be any effort on their part to fight (challenges)," said Foster. "I've been very pleased with the process."
Foster's experience is not unique. Elsewhere on Evergreen, four other houses won big assessment reductions in August that, as in Foster's case, were more than the increase the homeowners originally objected to.
Several doors down from Foster, one neighbour fought a $13,600 assessment increase and was notified of a $41,400 reduction, while three houses over, a second neighbour fought a modest $1,400 assessment increase and won a $19,800 cut.
"I thought maybe the government, relative to all the heat they've been taking, was being a little enthusiastic about making adjustments," Foster said.
"I'm saying, 'Hey, I paid top dollar for how many years and if you guys want to make a generous reduction, I'm not complaining.'"
The province is saying little about what is happening with all of the assessment challenges. It won't give an update on how many requests for assessment reviews it received from the public since confirming 17,500 had come forward by late July.
It also won't say how many of the requests have been dealt with or what percentage of those have been successful.
And it won't reveal how many thousands remain to be evaluated.
Requests to Service New Brunswick for all that information this week went unanswered.
But according to adjustments the department had to make as of Aug. 15 to its assessment data base, 7,112 New Brunswick properties have had their assessments reduced since tax bills were first issued in March.
That includes 900 assessment reductions that property owners like Foster and Charez were notified of in August.
The total value of assessment reductions property owners have been awarded since March now exceeds $250 million.
Homeowners still curious
John Cheraz says although his own property tax bill has been fixed he still wants to know why so many assessments were inflated in the first place.
He believes the province needs to learn from the way it rushed the new assessment system into service.
"I think when it comes to changing to new systems, especially when they are tax-based and affect a lot of people, you really need to phase that program in and get the kinks out."