Nova Scotia

When a lower property assessment doesn't mean lower taxes

A Lunenburg County homeowner is challenging Nova Scotia legislation that prevents her from lowering her property taxes even though her assessment dropped.

Rule is meant to protect property owners from sudden assessment spikes

Susanne Noecker's property tax assessment dropped $20,000 but her tax bill stayed the same. (CBC)

A Lunenburg County homeowner is challenging Nova Scotia legislation that prevents her from lowering her property taxes even though her assessment dropped.

In 2015, Susanne Noecker successfully challenged the assessment on her 1,500-square-foot, single-storey home in the tiny community of Front Centre, near the Town of Lunenburg. 

Her appeal to an assessment tribunal lowered the market value from $242,000 to $222,000, yet it had no impact on her $1,700 annual property tax bill.

She said the decision left her "very disappointed."

Assessment cap helps up to a point

Her beef over taxes is tied to an element in Nova Scotia's Capped Assessment Program (CAP), which was passed in 2004 to protect property owners from sudden assessment spikes.

The program limits assessment increases that municipalities can use to calculate property taxes.

It establishes a base — and capped — assessment that rises with the consumer price index.

The legislation states the taxable value of any property is either the assessed value of the property or the capped assessment, whichever is lower.

Her capped assessment is $195,000, well below the market value she was able to lower. Susanne Noecker wants her cap to fall with the assessed market value.

"The cap hasn't reflected the assessment going lower. I think it should."

Noecker is one of 353,000 residential properties in Nova Scotia with a capped assessment.

Court challenge needed?

Property Valuation Services Corporation is the non-profit responsible for property assessments in Nova Scotia.

It declined to discuss the specifics of Noecker's case, since it is heading to a Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board hearing in Bridgewater at the end of January.

Corporation lawyer Robert Andrew said in a May 2016 letter to Noecker that objections to the Capped Assessment Program are outside the jurisdiction of regulatory tribunals like the utility and review board's.

"Accordingly, the CAP can be appealed to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia," he wrote.

Noecker said she will proceed to the utility and review hearing and press for her capped assessment to be lowered.