Judge slams Service New Brunswick property assessors
Assessors decided to ignore Planning Appeal Board ruling in Saint John homeowner's case
A Court of Queen's Bench Judge has upheld the authority of the province's Planning Appeal Board while delivering a sharp rebuke to Service New Brunswick's assessment branch.
Justice Tom Christie said the assessment branch simply ignored a 2015 board directive that a home on Saint John's Anchorage Avenue was to be reassessed.
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Instead of performing the reassessment as ordered, assessment staff — collectively referred to in the judgment as the
Executive Director" — sent a letter to the home's owner, Doug Robinson, telling him they would not be following the directive because they did not consider it legal.
While not physically reassessing the building they lowered the assessed value to $443,300
"There can be no other reasonable reading of the March 30th letter than that the Executive Director understood the directive," Christie wrote. "The Executive Director was not prepared to follow the Board's decision."
Dismisses Service N.B. appeal
In the judgment, he questioned what would happen if the roles had been reversed, with homeowners choosing to ignore orders of the appeal board.
Christie's ruling dismissed the appeal filed by the assessment branch against the Planning Appeal Board decision in the Robinson case.
The judge's final observation is telling: "To allow otherwise would result in powers resting in the Executive Director that are superior to those of the Appeal Board and, therefore, not in keeping with the legislative scheme."
Speaking to CBC News on Thursday, Robinson, a developer and home-builder, said he is thrilled with the outcome.
"It's a win, but it's not just a win for me," he said. "It's a win, I think, for the people who pay property tax that feel it's unjust every day."
Robinson represented himself in appealing his tax assessment to the Planning Appeal Board after learning a lawyer would cost between $5,000 and $10,000.
He said he wants others to know they have that option.
Provoked by assessment differences
Robinson appealed the $475,000 assessment on the house at 80 Anchorage Ave. because the similar but larger home next door, which he also built, was assessed at $423,000, he said.
He called for a reform of the tax system, claiming there is neither predictability nor accountability in Service New Brunswick's assessments.
Robinson said assessments should not include the amount of HST charged, real estate fees or the cost of kitchen applicances.
"I think we all agree we have to pay taxes," Robinson said. "But it would be nice to know what formula we're paying or how we arrive at that formula. And I think we need to be part of that solution, a huge part of it."
The home later sold for $483,000, which was more than the original assessment.