LNG terminal's property value jumps, taxes frozen
25-year deal with City of Saint John freezes property tax at $500K
Saint John's Canaport LNG facility — New Brunswick's most expensive piece of property — continues to grow in value, but its taxes are holding steady because of an eight-year-old property tax deal it cut with the city.
The liquid natural gas terminal is New Brunswick's most valuable piece of assessed property at just under $300 million.
The facility's value grew $4.3 million this year, on top of a $4.4-million increase last year.
A 25-year property tax deal struck by former Saint John mayor Norm McFarlane for the LNG development froze its bill at $500,000 a year.
The property tax deal caused protests in the city for weeks.
Eight years later the gap between LNG and other facilities continues to grow.
By comparison, the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station now pays $5.8 million in property tax — 12 times more than the LNG terminal — even though its assessment is $66 million lower.
"I'm assuming they're sending someone down each and every year to determine what the value is and it seems to be going up a few million dollars each and every year," says Shawn Peterson, who runs the propertize.ca, a website that provides searchable tax assessment information.
Peterson said provincial assessors do keep track of the LNG plant, although, in the end, it's salt in the wound for a city forbidden from cashing in on its growing property value.
Last month, former Liberal premier Frank McKenna said the LNG plant may yet trigger an economic rebirth for Saint John, well beyond the modest annual contribution it makes to the city's tax haul.
Homeowners facing hikes
Meanwhile, New Brunswick has lifted a three-per-cent property tax freeze that's been in place for the last two years.
That has been causing some tax bill jumps, including in Saint John where some residents and other property owners are facing huge increases.
Isaac Miller is a frequent user of the city's four-year-old skateboard park.
"It's really great to have a public park that has no costs," said Miller.
Provincial assessors slapped the park with a $1,051 tax bill — 150 times more than the $7 it was charged the last two years.
Last year, Walter Peterson did energy efficiency renovations on his 30-year-old eastside bungalow, including new windows and vinyl siding.
Peterson was expecting a bump in his tax bill.
The province added $148,000 to his assessment.
"I almost fell off the chair because it went up 122 per cent," said Peterson
His house, valued at $121,000 each of the last two years, is now assessed at just under $270,000 with a $4,300 property tax bill to match.
The renovations were encouraged by the province and partially paid for by Efficiency NB.
"Well if I get $269,000, it's sold. Anyone who wants to come with a cheque, it's gone," he said.
Peterson has already filed an appeal, one of thousands the province deals with annually.
10 priciest New Brunswick properties and their tax bills
|Property||2013 Assessment (millions)||Tax (millions)|
|Saint John Regional||$231.8||$4.1|
|University of Moncton||$175.6||$2.9|
|Irving Oil Refinery||$96.8||$4.6|