Saint John Lancaster Progressive Conservative MLA Dorothy Shephard is encouraging homeowners to appeal their property tax assessments "straightaway" amid growing concerns of widespread errors in the southern part of the province.

Shephard says she has received a number of calls from constituents about exorbitant assessments during the past week, since property tax bills started landing in mailboxes.

"Some of these increases have been like 30 per cent, 50 per cent, I had one in the old north end that was 67 per cent," she said.

"And there's no market and no history that would have explained an increase of those sorts."

Service New Brunswick officials have said only five per cent of properties saw assessments increase more than 10 per cent, and all included constructions, additions or renovations.

Shephard isn't convinced, particularly after dealing with a "manager" at Service New Brunswick on behalf of an elderly woman, whose assessment jumped 26.1 per cent.

'It's also taking away confidence that we have a system that's remaining fair to the individuals.' - Dorothy Shephard, Tory MLA

The manager reviewed the matter and left Shephard a voicemail message, saying "there was an error in the billing, they were going to correct the error and then a new bill would be forwarded by the first of April."

Shephard subsequently heard about a man whose assessment increased by the exact same amount — 26.1 per cent.

"So that raised a red flag to me".

But other constituents who have contacted Service New Brunswick are now being directed by the department to file formal appeals, she

Shephard suspects there's a widespread problem that Service New Brunswick wants to "track."

Not only are residents facing staggering bills, up to $800 higher than they expected, "it's also taking away confidence that we have a system that's remaining fair to the individuals," she said.

Shephard hopes if enough people appeal their assessments, it will persuade the provincial government to extend the March 31 deadline to appeal. 

With files from Information Morning Saint John