Provincial officials say untaxed Richmond County properties may already be taxed
Officials with Property Valuation Services and land registry reviewing list of properties and assessment roll
Officials from the Property Valuation Services Corporation and the Nova Scotia Land Registry have begun looking into a list of dozens of properties in Richmond County that are reportedly not being assessed municipal taxes.
Richmond County deputy warden Michael Diggdon says he found more than 50 properties that are not on the tax roll —and some go back to the 1970s.
Lloyd MacLeod, senior valuation manager with PVSC, said it's possible some of the properties are actually being assessed taxes.
"We really want to make sure that they are not assessed before we would go and have them create another account and have a duplicate assessment," he said.
"The problem with any list that's provided, you have to really review them in detail, because some properties may appear that they are not assessed, but in fact they may be assessed."
MacLeod said some large rural properties may be made up of several parcel identification numbers, known as PIDs, but in some cases the assessed value is not spelled out on each separate PID. Instead, it is listed on one assessment account that covers multiple PIDs.
'Should know in a few weeks'
He said that sometimes happens in urban areas, too. For example, large commercial properties may consist of more than one PID, but have only one assessment account.
PVSC is paid by municipalities to assess land and buildings, assign a dollar value and give that to municipalities, which use that information to collect taxes and pay for services.
MacLeod said PVSC gets its list of properties from the land registry and can only assign values to properties it knows about.
He said officials should know within a few weeks how many of the properties under review in Richmond need to be added to the county's assessment roll.
"The first step is we'll go through the list and see what we can resolve on the list and then we'll ask our partners at the land registry to look at any other properties that may not have PIDs," he said.
MacLeod said municipalities handled all of their own property assessments until 1976, when the province took over.
He said the current investigation might not be able to determine why some Richmond properties have been untaxed for decades, because the PVSC was just created in 2008.
Richmond chief administrative officer Don Marchand told council last month that staff have not had time to look into properties that are not on the assessment roll.
"All rural municipalities have this issue and have had this problem," he said.
"Some have already made strides in it. It is a long-term process and it is something that would take several years to complete and even at that, would it really be complete?"
Mike Dolter, the chief administrative officer in Truro and president of the province's municipal administrators association, said the topic of untaxed properties came up a few years ago, but it did not appear to be widespread.
"We were aware there was some issues," he said. "I have not heard of issues of this scale, though. That's something, obviously ... that we'll have to look into."
Dolter said municipal staff bear some responsibility for keeping the tax roll up to date, because that's how municipalities pay for services.
"That's why I'm a little bit surprised to hear that for Richmond County that this has been going on for so long."
He said municipal staff usually check on the accuracy of the tax roll on a regular basis.
"There should be some sort of reconciliation process to be done from year to year, obviously, because you don't want cases where properties do suddenly disappear off the tax roll."