The mayor of Saint John believes her city may be getting a raw deal on property tax assessments.
Assessments for the 2022 tax year show Saint John will expand its tax base by 6.24 per cent, which is behind the provincial average of eight per cent and the rates of other major cities like Moncton and Fredericton.
Mayor Donna Reardon said Saint John is being treated differently than other municipalities and she cannot understand why.
“And that’s all we can do is compare to other municipalities and say why the differential?” Reardon began. “But that’s all we have. We don’t have that formula, we don’t know how it’s calculated. And it’s not by square footage, it’s not by frontage, it’s not by number of floors.
“Like, there’s no tangible way to come up with the numbers.”
Reardon said Saint John Common Council is trying to establish a 10-year financial plan, but assessments aren’t following trends she and others are observing in the city.
Service New Brunswick’s website offers some explanation.
“Your property’s real property assessment value reflects its market value,” the site says in a section dedicated to understanding how property is valued.
Reardon said that wasn’t reflected in some Saint John neighbourhoods.
She said numerous water-view lots along Anchorage Avenue in Millidgeville sold in recent months for $150,000, but are assessed at only half that value.
The issue caught the attention of New Brunswick’s Leader of the Official Opposition.
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Liberal Leader Roger Melanson, like Reardon, said the government needs to be more transparent on how the figures have been calculated.
“I think it’s legit to ask if there was political interference,” Melanson stated. “We know that the majority of the cabinet ministers and the premier are from Saint John.”
Melanson is calling on the province to ease the impact of an overall assessment spike in New Brunswick. He said the government will bring in $5.2 billion from the increase in assessments.
Between assessments and the recently-announced $400 million surplus, Melanson said the government is balancing the books on the backs of the people it’s intended to serve.
He said the government provided tax relief to industry last year as the COVID-19 pandemic threatened the economy and it should do the same for taxpayers.
“The government should also give property owners a relief in terms of the significant increases that many household owner has never seen over the last 10 years,” Melanson said.
Service New Brunswick provided a written statement to Global News.
“Property assessors do not determine the market value,” wrote spokesperson Jennifer Vienneau. “They reflect the values that have been established by knowledgeable buyers and sellers in local real estate markets across the province.
“Service New Brunswick uses a regional model, with the assistance of 11 local offices which ensures all communities in New Brunswick are represented by local assessors who understand the local market. Assessors are unbiased, highly qualified professionals and comply with industry standards.”
Vienneau said Property Assessment Services met with the City of Saint John Oct. 4, “to answer questions and provide information on the assessment activities occurring in their respective region. Our staff has continued to meet regularly with the Saint John administrative staff throughout October and is available to answer any questions they may have.”