Premier Brian Gallant announced sweeping changes Monday to the property tax assessment system in New Brunswick and an inquiry into past problems but appeared to dispute that a number of homeowners have been wrongly charged too much on their tax bills this year.
"There is clearly a problem and we are going to fix it," said Gallant, who held a joint news conference in Moncton with Service New Brunswick Minister Ed Doherty.
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Gallant said former New Brunswick Appeal Court Justice Joseph T. Robertson will head a "review of all policies and procedures related to recent assessment processes."
Regardless of what Robertson finds, the premier said a new agency will be set up apart from the provincial government to handle assessments in the future.
The moves follow revelations reported by CBC News that Service New Brunswick invented renovation amounts for 2,048 homeowners with large assessment increases this spring, allowing it to evade a legal 10 per cent cap on increases on the homes' property tax bills.
But Gallant appeared to dispute that happened.
"A journalist is saying that they used a 10 per cent cap and didn't use it appropriately and went over and that that was inappropriate," Gallant said. "It's not."
"The 10 per cent cap is supposed to be for a property that does not have new construction, so the minute these properties had new construction or it seemed they had new construction based on the computer assessment the 10 per cent cap no longer applied."
CBC News has documented several homes that were deemed by Service New Brunswick to have undergone expensive renovations, even though they hadn't, and had their property tax bills jump well beyond the 10 per cent legal limit because of it.