Property values on the rise: Assessment notices released; tax bills still to be determined

By Phil Ambroziak

The City of Meadow Lake has yet to put the final piece of the property tax puzzle into place.
Last week, however, both residential and commercial property owners received property assessment notices in the mail, many of which indicated a substantial increase in value and, in turn, a much greater taxable value since the previous assessment was conducted four years ago. According to city officials, however, this doesn’t mean home and business owners will necessarily be paying more in property taxes.
“Four years ago, properties were assessed according to 2007 market values, but now they are based on 2011 values,” noted city treasurer Rosalie Brown. “Overall, the assessed values of residential properties have increased an average of about 63 per cent while commercial properties have gone up about 38 per cent. Every property is assessed differently based on their size and the various components that make up the building. It’s an in-depth process, but if your individual assessment increased more than the average percentage, your taxes will likely go up. If your assessed value is lower than this percentage, your taxes will likely go down.”
In spite of this, Brown said it’s the city’s goal to remain as revenue neutral as possible in terms of the reassessment. City staff will be looking to adjust the current mill rate and mill rate adjustment factor to help keep tax bills at a respectable level. This is something that must be determined come budget time this spring.
“We will be looking to bring the mill rate down, but some people will still be hit harder than others depending on the respective value of their properties,” Brown said.
Municipal tax bills are determined by multiplying the total taxable value of a property (as indicated on the recent assessment notices) by the mill rate and mill rate factor. For residential properties, the city only taxes 70 per cent of the assessed value while 100 per cent of commercial values are taxable.
Mayor Gary Vidal said, when there are large changes from one assessment year to another, municipal governments traditionally adjust their mill rates so the change isn’t too drastic for ratepayers.
“It would be wonderful (for the city’s tax revenue to increase as much as property values), but it’s not realistic,” he said.
“Determining the mill rate is an internal thing, but once that’s been calculated, council will still have to decide if they need to generate more money to meet the city’s budget needs,” Brown added.
Brown also said a clearer picture of how much money the city will need to generate through taxation will be available come the end of March when the province announces its annual budget. She also said it’s beneficial to explain the assessment process to the public because of the confusion that often arises when new property values are released.
“Every four years there’s usually a bit of an upheaval,” she said.
“There are too many variables still to play out here for someone to get too excited at this point,” Vidal added.

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