Nfld. & Labrador

Homeowners bracing for large property tax bills

Many homeowners in St. John's say their property tax bills are increasing by $500 to $1,000, despite a drop in the city mil rate to offset big jumps in property assessments.
The property values of many homes in St. John's have increased dramatically. (CBC)

Many homeowners in St. John's say their property tax bills are increasing by $500 to $1,000, despite a drop in the city mill rate to offset big jumps in property assessments.

Retiree Claude Clarke said he's bracing himself for about a $1,000 increase in his property taxes. 

"I've been retired since '95, and my paycheque covers less and less every month," said Clarke. "And this really a good stiff kick that I have to absorb by some other means."

Clarke, who lives in Virginia Park, said his property value nearly doubled in his latest municipal assessment.  

Province-wide jump

Property values have taken a big jump across Newfoundland and Labrador, especially in areas which have experienced an economic boom such as St. John's. Virginia Park was one of many established neighbourhoods in the city, which were recently reassessed, resulting of dramatic increases in property values. 

St. John's Coun. Danny Breen, the chair of the city's finance committee, said overall property taxes have gone up by 12 to 15 per cent. He said homes such as Clarke's had not caught up with the booming city property values.

"Houses that are in high-demand areas at high-demand price ranges … are the ones that got hit the most."

Breen said the high-demand east end of St. John's got hit especially hard by increases. He cited one plot of vacant land in that area where its value jumped from $10,000 to more than $100,000.

Mil rate could decrease

Breen added that residents who saw big increases in their home values last time around will likely see a decrease as a result of the reduced mill rate.

Breen said he has sympathy for city residents who are grappling with larger bills. 

"Property taxation is very regressive," said Breen. "It doesn't necessarily reflect the ability of people to pay in terms of how they pay, but it is the only way that the city can raise revenue."

Clarke, however, said any decrease in his mill rate is unlikely to make much of a dent in his property tax bill.

"We just got our Visa bill a couple of days ago. That in itself was a shocker," said Clarke. "And this is a double whammy now."