On hold: 900 property owners await late tax bills

Almost 900 New Brunswick property owners will be waiting until April 1 to see their property assessments and tax bills for 2018.

Service New Brunswick doing additional quality control, says Serge Rousselle

Steve Ward, acting executive director of the valuation unit of Service New Brunswick explains additions to property tax bills. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

Almost 900 New Brunswick property owners will be waiting until April 1 to see their property assessments, and their tax bills, for 2018.

Service New Brunswick Minister Serge Rousselle said that assessments for more than 500 properties are going through "additional quality control efforts," a feature that the auditor-general said was lacking during last year's assessment fiasco.

Those will be on top of more than 300 owners whose 2017 assessments are still being reviewed for errors, a figure the Crown corporation revealed earlier this year.

Rousselle disclosed the new number at a news conference following the mailing of most of the province's 470,000 assessment notices and tax bills.

Assessments to be mailed in April

The assessments still on hold will be mailed out April 1, he said. They will also not appear on the government's online assessment database until its next update on April 10.

To quell the assessment controversy last year, the province froze all assessments for 2018. The only assessments that will change will be those that go down or those for properties that have been sold or have seen major renovations or expansions.

Service New Brunswick Minister Serge Rousselle listens as Ward answers questions. (Ed Hunter/CBC)
They account for about 16 per cent of assessments, with about 84 per cent frozen.

There's no particular pattern to the assessments that have been delayed, according to Service New Brunswick spokesperson Valerie Kilfoil

"There will be some that are frozen and some that fall into the exception categories," she said. "The additional 500-plus bills need to be reviewed by an assessor prior to establishing the 2018 value.

"Some of these will end up being exempt from the freeze due to new construction picked up on a sale, for example. Others will possibly end up being frozen as the assessor may not pick up any changes."

Quality control required

Kim MacPherson's audit said one of the perceived strengths of the modernization program was that aerial photography cut down on the costs of travel and quality control. 

Service New Brunswick will not be mailing about 900 property tax bills until early April. (Daniel McHardie/CBC)
But MacPherson noted that guidelines published by the International Association of Assessing Officers say that any data collection program requires quality control.

Many owners of properties with frozen assessments are still seeing higher tax bills because the assessment, set by the province, is only part of the formula. The other part is the tax rate, set by the municipality. If it rises, the tax bill will go up.

Last fall's report by MacPherson blamed the leadership of Service New Brunswick for "fast-tracking" the new assessment system, which produced thousands of errors last year.

The system incorrectly inflated property tax bills, but rather than catch and fix the mistakes, some officials made up renovation amounts on some homes to justify the inflated values.

About the Author

Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. Raised in Moncton, he also produces the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.

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