Home sales steady

Residential property values in Saint John have led to tax cuts. (CBC)

Entire Saint John neighbourhoods have been getting notices of municipal tax cuts in the mail this week as plummeting property values in the city begin to show up in some residential assessments.

Don McGinnis lives on Bardsley Avenue and received notice of a $236 property tax cut Wednesday after a provincial assessment lowered the value of his home $13,100 from last year

"It's always good news when you get a bit of a tax break," said McGinnis, who has never complained about previous bills during his 23 years on the street. "Maybe they just decided they've been overestimating in the last few years."

According to the website propertize.ca that tracks N.B. property tax assessments, most of McGinnis's neighbours on Bardsley also had their properties devalued, while around the corner on Walsh Place, five of six houses had assessment and tax reductions as well.

The streets are part of the Fundy Heights neighbourhood where several dozen other homes on nearby streets received similar notices.

Coun. David Merrithew said the city had a particularly tough time fashioning a budget this year, in part because declining property values in several neighbourhoods, such as Fundy Heights, caused revenues to flatline.

"It's good news for the homeowner. The homeowner's saving a few hundred dollars," said Merrithew. "For the city of Saint John, we've got to see if we can make that revenue up some place."

Adding to the city's budget problem were the province's huge and unexpected cuts to the assessed value of two key city industrial properties. JD Irving's east-side paper mill and it's west-side pulp mill, which had been assessed at a combined $112.5 million this time last year, according to propertize.ca, had that slashed 48 per cent to just $58.4 million this year.  That instantly shaved $2.7 million off the mill's property tax bills, about half of that due to the city.   

Merrithew said it was never clear to the city what caused the reassessment, but it too caused significant budget problems. 

"It happened late in the budget processing. It caught us off guard a little bit, said Merrithew. "I'm not sure why. That's their [the provincial government's] decision not ours. It did come out of our pocket, though."