St. John's to review assessment, taxation process

Everton McLean
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St. John's city council has asked for a full report and recommendation on how to ease the burden of high property assessments and the accompanying high property taxes on residents.

Mayor Dennis O'Keefe proposed the study during Tuesday's council meeting, saying many people have been affected by the higher property assessments, which were recently sent out.

St. John's city council has asked for a full report and recommendation on how to ease the burden of high property assessments and the accompanying high property taxes on residents.

Mayor Dennis O'Keefe proposed the study during Tuesday's council meeting, saying many people have been affected by the higher property assessments, which were recently sent out.

"Now's the time to deal with this issue before the next assessment cycle takes place, because the current assessment cycle has resulted in a lot of angst and a lot of anxiety," he said.

"I think it's time we initiate a review of the process to ascertain whether or not there are changes to be made that going into the future will soften the impact of significant assessments on people."

He moved, and the council unanimously agreed, that the finance department should review property tax regulations in other jurisdictions and report ideas that would ease the impact of significant property assessments increases.

Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth said it's important to make sure people with low incomes and seniors are not forced out of their homes due to high assessments and taxes.

"We have approximately 13,000 seniors living in St. John's, and that number is expected to double in eight to 10 years. We need to make sure we're ready to assist them and help them stay in their homes as long as possible," he said.

Coun. Gerry Colbert said issues around property assessment have been around a long time and it's time something was done about it.

He said a few years ago there was a conference he attended that talked about seniors who lived in older parts of their cities who had skyrocketing home values due to development around them in the city.

"These people became asset rich and cash poor," he said.

What some of the jurisdictions did was establish a means test so that people in that situation could pay what they could afford, and the city could recoup the lost taxes in the future, whenever the home is sold, Colbert said.

Meanwhile, Coun. Shannie Duff noted that people who can't wait for new rules do have some recourse if they think their assessment is too high. She said assessments only account for the home prices in the area and square footage, but not indoor details, so requesting officials to take a better look at your home could help lower the assessment.

"People who feel their property assessment has gone up way beyond, even before filing an appeal, have the right to approach our assessment division ... and ask for a detailed explanation of why their assessment went up, and then an inspection," she said.

emclean@thetelegram.com

Geographic location: St. John's

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