The city of Iqaluit has raised municipal property taxes by three per cent for 2020 — the fourth consecutive tax rise since 2016.
"A three per cent increase this year … felt manageable and would allow us to make significant investment in our infrastructure," said city councillor Kyle Sheppard, chair of the city's finance committee.
Sheppard said council could have raised the mill rate by one, two or three per cent and opted for the greatest increase. It's expected to bring the city an extra $634,999.
The previous city council voted to increase 2019 property taxes by five per cent to bring in an extra $433,298. The increase was to make up for raises in salaries, heating fuel and electricity.
"They took five per cent for the taxes, which was a huge increase, but that was eaten away by water breaks in the city," said Iqaluit Mayor Kenny Bell.
Bell says last year's waterline breaks cost about $700,000. These breaks contributed to the city's potable water shortage.
"We're taking more to make sure that we can at least try to replace things instead of just fixing existing problems," said Bell.
The money needed to fix the city's water infrastructure problems are far beyond any revenue the city could bring in through property taxes.
In the 2020 capital expenditure plan, the city budgets nearly $4 million for water system upgrades. These are things like pipeline replacements, repairs in the Happy Valley neighbourhood, and upgrades to the utilidors, the city's utility pipes that run above and underground.
Another $1 million is budgeted for pumping water from the Apex River.
How Iqaluit's property taxes have gone up
Property taxes are the largest source of revenue for the city of Iqaluit. In 2018 the city made $19,905,138 in taxes, according to the city's 2018 audited statements. This year, it expects to make $20,956,400.
Not all property tax revenue comes from single family homes.
The city breaks down its taxes into five mill rates:
Residential "7/8" is for single family units, such as a house or an individually owned condo. The other residential classification, "9/10" is for properties that have two or more family dwellings, such as an apartment building or full duplex.
There are other mill rates for commercial, industrial and institutional properties.
When the city says it is "raising property taxes," what they are actually doing is increasing the mill rate. So a three per cent increase in 2020 means the city is raising the previous year's mill rate by three per cent.
How do property assessment work in Iqaluit?
The city of Iqaluit has the power to change the mill rate. What they don't do is property assessments, which assess the value of your home.
This task falls to Gerry Towns and Chelsea Bradshaw of GT Property Assessment and Tax out of Edmonton. They also work for the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation and assess every property in the territory.
In Nunavut, there are two kinds of assessments: the general assessment that happens within 10 years of the previous general assessment, and the annual assessment that happens every year.
The general assessment creates a base upon which all properties are evaluated. It takes into account things like construction costs, zoning changes and inflation. In its calculation, the general assessment looks at property values from two years prior. The last time Iqaluit had a general assessment was in 2014, which means all properties in Iqaluit were assessed on the construction costs in 2012.
The next general assessment year is 2024, and everyone's property values are set to go up. That's because everyone's homes will be valued based on 2022 building construction costs.
Why on earth are things done like this? The idea is that if everyone is evaluated on the same base year, taxes will be distributed more fairly.
But just because everyone's property values are expected to go up in 2024, it doesn't mean your property taxes will skyrocket. The city will recalculate the mill rate for this year to make sure that doesn't happen.
According to Towns, in the last three general assessments, the mill rate in Iqaluit went down.
Annual assessments are less complicated. They calculate changes to the land or the building that affect its value, like the addition of a garage, or an extension to your house.