Tax records show huge jumps in assessments in province

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'They did it on purpose': Province accused of deliberately overcharging homeowners on property taxes

A CBC review of New Brunswick property tax records in six communities shows the provincial government billed 1,186 homeowners for property tax increases of more than 20 per cent this year, despite legislation that forbids increases above 10 per cent, plus the cost of new construction.

It is more than 10 times the number of homeowners who got a tax increase that large last year. 

​Jamie Watling lives in Quispamsis and saw his tax bill increase 32.9 per cent after the province raised his assessment $59,700.

His renovation? Two $300 laundry room windows he installed himself on a Saturday last year.

"I think our reaction was laughter," Watling said when he and his wife opened their tax bill. "We couldn't believe it."

By law, Watling's tax bill can only increase $241 this year [10 per cent of last year's bill] plus 1.28 per cent of the value of his two new windows.

That's the tax rate in Quispamsis and would add another $7 to Watling's increase.    

But like it did for hundreds of other homeowners, the province ignored those rules when it issued Watling's bill and charged him $794 more than last year.

"It's not going to bankrupt us. It's more the principle of it than anything," said Watling.

Saint John area hit worse

CBC's review shows the heaviest concentration of homeowners being overcharged on their property tax bills is in the greater Saint John area, including Rothesay and Quispamsis.

Opposition leader Blaine Higgs represents Quispamsis and in the legislature Wednesday, pressed the Gallant government to acknowledge it has wrongly been overcharging homeowners.

"There have been major issues with assessments. Will the the minister responsible agree to help publicize the fact that many New Brunswickers might overpay their property taxes by many hundreds of dollars?" said Higgs.

Service New Brunswick is responsible for assessments but Minister Ed Doherty has answered no questions in the legislature about the foul up. 

Instead Local Government Minister Serge Rousselle claimed problems were worse under the previous government.

To gauge the extent of the problem CBC News reviewed data compiled by Shawn Peterson of propertize.ca. 

He generated a spreadsheet from the province's master list of 467,606 properties showing the 4,492 that received both an assessment and tax increase this year of between 20 and 40 per cent.

From that list CBC News isolated properties in the six communities of Moncton, Dieppe, Fredericton, Saint John, Rothesay and Quispamsis.

Using residential tax rates in each community, all the owner-occupied homes were pulled out. For comparison purposes the procedure was repeated for the previous 2016 tax year.

Huge jump in new assessments

The review revealed a stunning jump in the number of homeowners being charged more than 20 per cent increases on their property tax bills this year. 

In Quispamsis, four homeowners received increases like that in 2016 compared to 157 this year. 

It was even worse in Rothesay, where another four homeowners received large increases in 2016 compared to 224 this year.

The highest amount billed more than 20 per cent, a total of 355 homeowners, was in Saint John.

The province has acknowledged there were "miscalculations" on 2,400 bills this year but will not say if those are in relation to incorrect assessments, a failure to cap increases at 10 per cent or another issue.

It has also not explained what caused the problem other than to call it "human error."

Watling said he has heard nothing so far.

"I'm kind of hoping I'm one of the 2,400."