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Assessment system may need an overhaul

Municipal assessments are arriving this month at residences across the province.

Stephenville, for one town, has learned that its assessments are up by an average of 17 per cent.

Some properties, however, have seen hikes of 40 per cent or more, and there are obviously some below the average.

Now town councils have the option of taking another look at their mill rates to try to be fair to the property owners in the town, something Stephenville Deputy Mayor Mike Tobin said council will be looking into.

When the last assessments came out three years ago, Stephenville council dropped its residential tax rate from nine mills to 7.5 mills, but since raised it up to eight mills where it stands now.

But even with an adjustment in the mill rate, there will still be winners and losers. Those in areas where houses are bringing a good dollar will have the higher rates thrown at them, while others will get along well where values are lower.

People who do not upgrade their properties actually get rewarded under the current system. The better shape the property is in, the more you end up having to pay in the end.

Tobin noted last week the assessments are done every three years, but said it’s always a little behind and the current figures by the Municipal Assessment Agency Inc. were actually compiled in January 2014.

A lot of things can change in almost two years. Back in January 2014, the economy was strong with oil prices up and workers in this province along with those on turnaround in Alberta, all bringing in good money and purchasing homes for big bucks.

A bit of a different picture today, with the downturn in the economy and people being laid off in the oil industries and its spinoff sectors.

Property values should be dropping, not increasing. Owners will tell you that nobody has been around their homes to actually estimate any values, and the assessments are really only guesses about each property.

There needs to be a full revision of the residential property assessment structure in this province, especially when it comes to how it is assessed. A look at the whole taxation structure wouldn’t hurt either.

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