Homeowners of an Acton Court cul-de-sac in Moncton are frustrated from assessment notices sent out from the province last week, revealing double digit increases in their property values and tax bills.
"I'm not happy about it I can tell you that," said Scott Dorcus, an Acton Court resident. "It's gone up quite a bit. Do I see a big increase in city services? No."
- Property assessments falling in 16 New Brunswick communities
Moncton and other nearby towns in southeastern New Brunswick have become the province's fastest growing and most prosperous communities. Provincial assessors say this is driving up property values and hundreds of homeowners — especially in Moncton and Dieppe — are seeing the results in their tax bills.
Acton Court sits in Moncton's north end and includes just 12 houses, mostly in the $200,000 range. All but one were hit with an assessment increase this year and five of those were for more than 10 per cent. One house had its assessment jump 17 per cent.
'It doesn't feel like you can do a lot'
Dorcus says he and his wife Amie have lived on the street for 12 years. Their assessment has jumped 10 per cent — or $22,400.
"I'm considering appealing," said Dorcus. "But does that open the door for them to come in and say, 'actually we've under-assessed you'? It doesn't feel like you can do a lot."
The assessment increase added $374 to the couple's tax bill but that's a bargain compared to what happened to their neighbours.
*By law property tax increases over 10 per cent must be phased in over two years - Source: Service NB
Those two homes face tax hikes of $477 and $504 respectively, increases so high they have to be phased in over two years.
New Brunswick has a law forbidding a property tax increase from rising more than 10 per cent each year, if caused by an assessment increase. The assessment jumped $28,600 or 14.9 per cent at the house to the right of the Dorcus household and next door on the left, the assessment leaped by $30,200 or 15.2 per cent.
The situation is even worse for many homeowners in Dieppe. Town council passed a 1.25 per cent property tax increase for this year and now some homeowners also face hefty assessment increases on top of that.
Along Dieppe's Gaspe Street, assessment increases above 10 per cent are common this year, with at least two homes facing increases above 19 per cent, plus a tax increase.
"I'd like to see some kind of justification as to why the sudden increase," said Dorcus. "No one has done anything that I'm aware of significant to increase their property value and all the houses look the same on the outside as they did 10 years ago."
"I'm not opposed to paying my taxes with the understanding they're going to city services or municipal services but I don't really see that justification."
Different triggers for increases
Property assessments in New Brunswick are supposed to reflect actual market values. If assessors detect increasing real estate prices or housing starts in an area, that is enough to trigger a change in tax bills all over a neighbourhood.
The current increases were foreshadowed last December when John Martin, Moncton's chief financial officer revealed that new assessment techniques were being used by the province. This included detailed aerial photography, able to identify under and over valued neighbourhoods faster.
"It's great news for the city and it's an initiative of the provincial government," said Martin.
"They realized we were probably missing out on opportunities for assessment growth, they looked at things like what's going on in markets and neighbourhoods, doing the flyovers, doing a lot of the statistical analysis."
Moncton was told by the province to expect an overall increase of 3.72 per cent in city assessments for 2017, but that involved some properties receiving higher increases than others.