Nova Scotia

Richmond County finds dozens of properties not being taxed

Richmond County deputy warden Michael Diggdon was helping a friend with a property search when he found out it was not being assessed municipal taxes. That piqued his curiosity, so he looked into it and found dozens more untaxed properties, some going back to the early 1970s.

Deputy warden says a couple are owned by family, but he's not playing favourites because everybody has to pay

Richmond County deputy warden Michael Diggdon says he recently found more than 50 properties not on the tax roll and he wants that fixed. (Submitted by Michael Diggdon)

Richmond County council has directed staff to bring the Cape Breton municipality's tax roll up to date after the deputy warden discovered dozens of properties whose owners are not paying taxes.

Michael Diggdon, who represents District 2 on Isle Madame, was helping a friend with a property search when he found out it was not being assessed municipal taxes.

That piqued his curiosity, so he looked into it and found a lot more untaxed properties, some going back to the early 1970s. 

"When we got to about 50 or 60, we stopped and I said, 'It's a lot bigger problem than I anticipated,' so it was time to bring it to everybody's attention," said Diggdon.

"It's not just one or two, it's multiple. And it's in multiple districts, so it's widespread."

Property Valuation Services Corporation is paid by municipalities to prepare the assessment roll so councils can set a tax rate and raise revenue.

Municipal staff have been directed to find out how big the problem is and how to get it fixed. (Angela MacIvor/CBC)

Diggdon said an official from the corporation told him in some cases, properties and owners changed decades ago and the tax roll was never updated.

"That is true in some of the instances I brought forward, but it's not true in all of them, and there's many in there that I'm going to say were probably political at some point back in the 70s and 80s," said Diggdon.

"That was the game that was played, and I'm going to say some of the names that were brought up that I put forward were big political leaders and possibly the reason why they were never taxed."

Diggdon said he does not blame Property Valuation Services Corporation or municipal staff, but he took his concerns to council, which voted to direct staff to find out how big the problem is and how to get it fixed.

Warden Amanda Mombourquette said the problem can't continue because property taxes are a municipality's main source of revenue.

"Step one is that research piece," said Mombourquette, who represents District 4, including St. Peters and the area north of there. "It's to find out what does it look like in our county? What does it look like in other places, and how have other areas addressed it?"

Amanda Mombourquette says no one knows how much tax revenue has been lost over the years, but she is confident the majority of properties are being assessed taxes. (Brittany Wentzell/CBC)

Diggdon said he asked staff to pull the details on 10 properties in his district and eight were not on the assessment roll. They have since been added and will be paying taxes in future years, he said.

Mombourquette said no one knows how much tax revenue has been lost over the years, but she is confident the majority of properties are being assessed municipal taxes.

"It might be a very small number of properties and maybe the ones that we pulled to check on were just the unlucky ones," she said.

'It's about fairness'

Diggdon said a couple of the untaxed properties belong to family members, but he's not worried about upsetting anyone.

"It's about fairness," he said. "I'm paying taxes on my property ... and there's no reason the guy next to us shouldn't be paying on his."

He said it would not be fair to ask owners who were never given a bill to pay taxes on previous years, but they will be expected to pay them from now on.

Mombourquette said staff will start work on the tax roll as soon as the budget process is finished.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years. He has spent the last 17 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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