New Brunswick

Over 15,000 property owners appeal property tax bills

New Brunswick property owners who contested their tax assessment this year have swamped Service New Brunswick with challenges and may have to wait as long as next year for a review of their case, according to the agency.

Number of appeals up by 90 per cent from last year

Over 15,000 people have filed appeals of their 2017 property tax assessments.

New Brunswick property owners who contested their tax assessment this year have swamped Service New Brunswick with challenges and may have to wait as long as next year for a review of their case, according to the agency.

"Due to the number of requests, Service New Brunswick anticipates the process to complete the requests for review will extend into late 2017 and early 2018," SNB said in news release Tuesday afternoon.

For weeks, the Gallant government has insisted assessment errors this year are at a record low, but New Brunswick property owners do not appear to agree.

So far 15,105 property owners have filed for reviews, a record number by far and a 90 per cent increase over the number of landowners who contested their tax bills last year.

In the legislature Tuesday, Premier Brian Gallant acknowledged that the continuing property assessment controversy that erupted last month has shaken public faith in how assessments and taxes are calculated.

"This is very unfortunate to have New Brunswickers go through these errors," Gallant said. "The confidence New Brunswickers have in the problem-plagued property tax assessment process is now at an all-time low."

Gallant was pressed for the entire question period by Opposition leader Blaine Higgs about the accelerated adoption of a new assessment system that triggered the controversy.  

No new answers

And although the premier apologized for the problems the new system caused he would not answer key questions about his role in speeding up its adoption.

Two weeks ago CBC News obtained two internal documents from SNB that indicated the agency abandoned a three-year implementation of its new desktop assessment system in favour of a "fast track" adoption in less than one year at the urging of the premier.

Premier Brian Gallant did not answer any questions about his involvement in the accelerated adoption of the new assessment system at the root of many mistakes this year. (CBC)

One of the documents, a memo to SNB employees explaining the reason for rapid deployment last June, was unequivocal in pointing to Gallant.

"Premier Brian Gallant … immediately requested our CEO … to accelerate modernization efforts," it says. 

"Does the Premier contest the authenticity of this document," asked Higgs. "Can he offer this house any credible explanation for why all these senior managers seem to think he ordered it."

Gallant did not respond directly to those or similar questions but did repeat claims his office did not push for the new system to be rushed into service.

"There were problems this season and there's been problems for years and we're going to fix it," Gallant said.

About the Author

Robert Jones

Reporter

Robert Jones has been a reporter and producer with CBC New Brunswick since 1990. His investigative reports on petroleum pricing in New Brunswick won several regional and national awards and led to the adoption of price regulation in 2006.