Property assessment appeals down

Deana Stokes Sullivan
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Council will consider lowering mill rate, mayor says

Although a spike in property values in St. John's generated a lot of concern during the recent municipal election, the number of appeals filed is down more than 50 per cent from the last round of assessments.

Mayor Dennis O'Keefe said Monday only 445 appeals have been filed, including 235 for residential assessments and 210 for commercial assessments.

Dennis O'Keefe

Although a spike in property values in St. John's generated a lot of concern during the recent municipal election, the number of appeals filed is down more than 50 per cent from the last round of assessments.

Mayor Dennis O'Keefe said Monday only 445 appeals have been filed, including 235 for residential assessments and 210 for commercial assessments.

"Back three years ago, the number of appeals was a little over 1,000, maybe 1,100, so it's about a 55 per cent reduction," O'Keefe said.

During the recent election campaign, some candidates promised to consider a mill rate reduction to offset drastically higher property values for some homeowners and businesses.

O'Keefe said this will be considered by the new council as part of the budget process. "The mill rate has to be set by Dec. 15, so, we'll be into budget discussions now and we will be ready by early December to set the mill rate," he said.

The mayor said he believes council will decide to lower the mill rate, but it will also have to decide specifically how much the reduction will be prior to the deadline.

The current residential property tax rate in St. John's is 11 mills or 1.1 per cent of a property's total assessed value. That means a home valued at $100,000 would be taxed $1,100 a year. The property tax rate for commercial sites is 17.2 mills.

The issue of higher property assessments was raised during Monday night's council meeting by Coun. Tom Hann, who said during the election campaign most council candidates committed to review the city's taxation legislation to see if there's a more fair and equitable way to apply property taxes.

Hann said he's especially concerned about seniors living on fixed incomes and is hoping the mayor's advisory committee on seniors will have some suggestions to submit for consideration in the budget process.

O'Keefe tabled a resolution in September asking the city's director of finance to review property tax legislation in other jurisdictions.

Hann said he'd like to see some jurisdictions throughout North America included in this review because he's heard that some creative taxation measures have been adopted in other regions, including some communities in the United States.

Hann also questioned whether this information would be available before council begins its budget discussions.

O'Keefe said the director of finance has agreed to broaden the scope of the review, but the information won't likely be available early enough for the upcoming budget discussions.

"What we would want is to have it available to us before we go into the next cycle of assessments, not the budget process. We're in the budget process now. We're not going to change it now. The whole intent of the motion was to look at other systems in anticipation of making adjustments to our system prior to the next reassessment cycle," O'Keefe said.

"The point I'm making is I understand significant progress is being made and maybe we could have some of that information go into budget discussions," Hann said.

To which O'Keefe said, "Let's be very clear, that won't change. It has nothing to do with our budgeting for 2010, nor with the assessments for 2010. What we have to deal with here is the mill rate."

dss@thetelegram.com

Geographic location: St. John's, North America, United States

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Recent comments

  • Bibbie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    Yes the amount of appeals is down because you Mayor OKeefe (especially you) and all the candidates said, You would look at lowering the millrate. You said yourself your own assessment was gone up to high. But, now that youre back in the majors chair with your salary plus your teachers pension, you can afford the increase in the assessment. I and a lot of other people voted you and certain other candidates in on your promise to lower the millrate. I appealed my assessment the last time and got nowhere because the two gentlemen looking after the appeal based it on what other houses in my area sold for. Not that I hadnt done any improvements in my house for fifteen years or that my heat bill was costing me $500.00 dollars a month in the wintertime. No, its all about taking your sixty dollars and still keeping your assessment up and if its going to be based on Real Estate Appraisals, we havent got a chance of it being lowered when we appeal it... Its a load of what the bull made famous. I still would have appealed this time only for I took you Mayor OKeefe and your candidates at your word. Dont say you have to raise it to balance your budget. Im paying the highest amount of taxes for the littlest of services. Like this week, I didnt even get a garbage pickup, so really Im paying taxes for your salary or to clean the crap out of the harbour. Maybe we should have cleaned up some more crap, not only whats in the harbour.

  • Cornergirl
    July 02, 2010 - 13:29

    Check out this link- this is how the City of Halifax details their tax bills
    http://www.halifax.ca/revenue/taxbill/

  • JohnL
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    Assessment appeals down:
    This was due to the fact almost all candidates in the City of St.John's , during the election promised to review the mil rate and were practically promising a mil rate reduction.
    No reduction in the mil rate would be completely dishonest.

  • Surprised
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    Student from NL is right, if you appeal it is almost like a punishment, then they push the assessment up so that you don't ever appeal it again. We appealed a few years ago and they came in gangbusters, doubled the assesment and we swore we would NEVER appeal again. They showed us, never try to fight City Hall. The attitude was don't tell us how much your house it worth, even though we had an appraisal telling us that the property was worth less. I guess people have learned not to fight it.

  • jim
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    Nate, You complete moron!
    Who would have thought that you were also one of the tools that think a city snow plow is going to lift his blade at every driveway. Can you think about that for a minute. If a plow opperator made an effort like that at every driveway, the cleanup after every storm would be about a month, but of course YOU could do it! You can do everything!
    In stead of trying to look smart and tough, just shup up

  • Robb
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    Hey city council.....wonder why the numbers are down...because you put a cost to the appeal....what is it $60. I appealed there a few years ago on a couple of properties...cost me a couple hundred dollars, and got me nowhere.....so I ended up paying more.....this is a disgrace.....if people want to appeal your arbitrary figures, then the city should not charge.....it is a boundary that they ful well know how many people back.......should hang your heads at city hall.....and what about the big mil rate reduction...was that again just election talk.....this is a money grab, period.........the public needs to make these city jokers responsible for their promises, as they will say anything to get their greedy little hands into the pot.

  • CJ
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    The problem that nobody at City Hall or for the most part in the city is talking about: Make work done by the city & city contractors more efficient - I believe that could reduce costs significantly and would require less taxes & provide better services from the taxes they get. What comes to mind & is most evident is many repairs on city streets - take far more time & involve far more people than are required & cause a lot of frustration from drivers. I know some of this is contracted out & some of this is a result of what the limited # of contractors bid & everyone is trying to get the most $ they can out of their contract bids. I also see a fair # of council trucks driving around not appearing to do too much. The pavement scoring program (using equipment to score pavement on city streets (usually deep long & fairly wide pieces taken out of it & often not filled for days or weeks is a program I am really opposed to. It creates a mess of city streets (during tourist season) & I know I try to avoid those. When the program was 1st brought in, it was looked at as a scientific way to determine which streets needed to be repaved - but they do it every year to many of the same streets & as the open line shows were saying at the time, the teaxi drivers could tell them that. There are enough areas of pavement that are broken up & I'd prefer to see $'s going to them. Ditto for the habit of tearing up seemingly goodpavement on quiet residential streets & replacing patches@!!! efficiency please.

    I do have an issue with another branch of city hall that is very reactive & high falluting? to deal with.

    I have had both good & bad experiences with dealing with different city employees over the phone over the years - one was quite helpful but others let you know that they are the ones with the power & one made a generalization that did not apply in my case. It is too bad that people in certain positions use heavy-handedness - because that is the kind of thing that gives a bad flavour for anyone on the receiving end or who hears about it.

    The 311 system is fabulous from this citizen's pov - wonderful employees there to deal (same as at Motor Vehicle registration); I actually enjoy it when I get 1 friendly voice on the phone & she is very helpful - if she doesn't know she'll say that & if you can give her any info of value to others, she'll take it, she will direct you further if you need that & she passes messages along to the appropriate people. She is a wonderful interface with City Hall & she/they are the right persons in the right job. I have also found the people at the payments desk to be good to deal with.

    What's with Atlantic Place Parking Garage (which is probably private - was it ever a city garage being closed on times people want to use it) & same with upper level of city hall. & what's with the damage reported that has occured to cars inside & w damage to cars in the city hall parking lot. Should be cameras in all these & panic buttons when there has been trouble to catch the culprits. + there could be many more parking spots downtown - for ex - closer to the corner of all streets (could be black signs over the meters for no parking there when winter weather would make it to hard for snow removal). + too many loading signs downtown. seems to me that there could be arranegements made for deliveries during part days - eg: 9-11:30 am freeing these areas up for parking during the busier lunch & afternoon/evening hrs. + no parking by the courthouse should only be 9-5 as there are other parking places available after 5. + when bldgs have closed down - eg: like CBC - the no parking & loading & handicapped zones should be removed & reg partking meters installed.

    I can't talk about the efficiency at City of St. John's as a whole - having not had much experience with them. However, I do know that while he could be very brash, former mayor Andy Wells was generally highly defensive & supportive of city workers whenever he talked about them & Mayor O'Keefe & most all councillors are the same way - after all -these are the people that do what needs to be done. However, I believe that if City Council really looked at being efficient, that would help a lot with the overall budget. I suspect this hasn't been done for a while.

    I find the Mr. whoevers that the mayor & councillors refer to & even talk to at City Council meetings seem like people who have a lot of power (same as some of the people I've dealt with in some Dept's of city Hall & council tends to defer to them - use them to back up what they are saying. I do not find these people to be very open. I realize that what they say may be a legal opinion & may be based on work of their department's - I really think that in many instances, it is same old, same old & support the city's wants.

    I have also noted in the last # of years that the city has made it very difficult for some individual employees - cases which have made the news - some of which have resulted in lawsuits & some of which have been reasonable accommodation/bullying issues issues & have seen the strong arm of the city.

    & that's what I really think - really looking at the efficiency of running the city & the way you deal with citizens will help with the taxes we pay.

  • Graham
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    The number of appeals may be down because all the candidates promised to reduce the mill rate to a reasonable value to allow for the huge jump in assessments prior to the election.

    Personally, I think these assessments are out to lunch given our economy and given where we live - NL. It seems these assessments belong elsewhere in Canada - perhaps Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver. They don't really reflect true value for services here in NL. Why should I pay 40% more for the exact same thing I bought last year ?

    I know I would like to appeal the assessment, but like most, fear of the reassessment coming back higher as is usually the case. I don't want to be punished further.

    Paying more taxes because our assessments increased 40% does not mean I will receive 40% more city services (maybe 40% more snow plowed into my driveway if I do appeal). Nothing will actually change in the way of city services, although I bet they'll still try and reduce budget costs.

    This does not only apply to St. John's, but to the surrounding areas such as Paradise and CBS as well. Assessments have gone mad this year and so have the homeowners.

  • Craig
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    The Mil rate system has to change, When can we go to a system of pay for services rendered . How would people like it if the price of gasoline was tied to how much the blue book value of your car was, old car $1.00/liter - nice car $2.00/liter.

  • Why Not?
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    Residential property tax = Residential Revenue requirement divided by number of Electical meters.

    All home owners pay and all renters pay the same rate for same services.

    We all pay the same for garbage, water and sewer, road maintenance, snow clearning, administration of the City.

    Why Not?

  • Nasty
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    Speaking of snow being plowed onto private property by the City, what will be done this year to prevent this offence? If the City is permitted to plow in personal property, damage fences and lawns, are we able to return the snow to where it came, back onto the street with the same lack of recourse that the taxpayers have when it comes to damage to personal property?

    Let the games begin again, this year if they block my access I will be reversing the charges to have it removed so I have access to my property and am able to come and go as I please in this free society.

  • Student
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    We appealed our assesment last time and it went up. We were later told by someone who worked with a town that 90% of appeals go up so I guess people have learned there lessons.

  • Bibbie
    July 01, 2010 - 20:25

    Yes the amount of appeals is down because you Mayor OKeefe (especially you) and all the candidates said, You would look at lowering the millrate. You said yourself your own assessment was gone up to high. But, now that youre back in the majors chair with your salary plus your teachers pension, you can afford the increase in the assessment. I and a lot of other people voted you and certain other candidates in on your promise to lower the millrate. I appealed my assessment the last time and got nowhere because the two gentlemen looking after the appeal based it on what other houses in my area sold for. Not that I hadnt done any improvements in my house for fifteen years or that my heat bill was costing me $500.00 dollars a month in the wintertime. No, its all about taking your sixty dollars and still keeping your assessment up and if its going to be based on Real Estate Appraisals, we havent got a chance of it being lowered when we appeal it... Its a load of what the bull made famous. I still would have appealed this time only for I took you Mayor OKeefe and your candidates at your word. Dont say you have to raise it to balance your budget. Im paying the highest amount of taxes for the littlest of services. Like this week, I didnt even get a garbage pickup, so really Im paying taxes for your salary or to clean the crap out of the harbour. Maybe we should have cleaned up some more crap, not only whats in the harbour.

  • Cornergirl
    July 01, 2010 - 20:17

    Check out this link- this is how the City of Halifax details their tax bills
    http://www.halifax.ca/revenue/taxbill/

  • JohnL
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    Assessment appeals down:
    This was due to the fact almost all candidates in the City of St.John's , during the election promised to review the mil rate and were practically promising a mil rate reduction.
    No reduction in the mil rate would be completely dishonest.

  • Surprised
    July 01, 2010 - 20:07

    Student from NL is right, if you appeal it is almost like a punishment, then they push the assessment up so that you don't ever appeal it again. We appealed a few years ago and they came in gangbusters, doubled the assesment and we swore we would NEVER appeal again. They showed us, never try to fight City Hall. The attitude was don't tell us how much your house it worth, even though we had an appraisal telling us that the property was worth less. I guess people have learned not to fight it.

  • jim
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    Nate, You complete moron!
    Who would have thought that you were also one of the tools that think a city snow plow is going to lift his blade at every driveway. Can you think about that for a minute. If a plow opperator made an effort like that at every driveway, the cleanup after every storm would be about a month, but of course YOU could do it! You can do everything!
    In stead of trying to look smart and tough, just shup up

  • Robb
    July 01, 2010 - 20:04

    Hey city council.....wonder why the numbers are down...because you put a cost to the appeal....what is it $60. I appealed there a few years ago on a couple of properties...cost me a couple hundred dollars, and got me nowhere.....so I ended up paying more.....this is a disgrace.....if people want to appeal your arbitrary figures, then the city should not charge.....it is a boundary that they ful well know how many people back.......should hang your heads at city hall.....and what about the big mil rate reduction...was that again just election talk.....this is a money grab, period.........the public needs to make these city jokers responsible for their promises, as they will say anything to get their greedy little hands into the pot.

  • CJ
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    The problem that nobody at City Hall or for the most part in the city is talking about: Make work done by the city & city contractors more efficient - I believe that could reduce costs significantly and would require less taxes & provide better services from the taxes they get. What comes to mind & is most evident is many repairs on city streets - take far more time & involve far more people than are required & cause a lot of frustration from drivers. I know some of this is contracted out & some of this is a result of what the limited # of contractors bid & everyone is trying to get the most $ they can out of their contract bids. I also see a fair # of council trucks driving around not appearing to do too much. The pavement scoring program (using equipment to score pavement on city streets (usually deep long & fairly wide pieces taken out of it & often not filled for days or weeks is a program I am really opposed to. It creates a mess of city streets (during tourist season) & I know I try to avoid those. When the program was 1st brought in, it was looked at as a scientific way to determine which streets needed to be repaved - but they do it every year to many of the same streets & as the open line shows were saying at the time, the teaxi drivers could tell them that. There are enough areas of pavement that are broken up & I'd prefer to see $'s going to them. Ditto for the habit of tearing up seemingly goodpavement on quiet residential streets & replacing patches@!!! efficiency please.

    I do have an issue with another branch of city hall that is very reactive & high falluting? to deal with.

    I have had both good & bad experiences with dealing with different city employees over the phone over the years - one was quite helpful but others let you know that they are the ones with the power & one made a generalization that did not apply in my case. It is too bad that people in certain positions use heavy-handedness - because that is the kind of thing that gives a bad flavour for anyone on the receiving end or who hears about it.

    The 311 system is fabulous from this citizen's pov - wonderful employees there to deal (same as at Motor Vehicle registration); I actually enjoy it when I get 1 friendly voice on the phone & she is very helpful - if she doesn't know she'll say that & if you can give her any info of value to others, she'll take it, she will direct you further if you need that & she passes messages along to the appropriate people. She is a wonderful interface with City Hall & she/they are the right persons in the right job. I have also found the people at the payments desk to be good to deal with.

    What's with Atlantic Place Parking Garage (which is probably private - was it ever a city garage being closed on times people want to use it) & same with upper level of city hall. & what's with the damage reported that has occured to cars inside & w damage to cars in the city hall parking lot. Should be cameras in all these & panic buttons when there has been trouble to catch the culprits. + there could be many more parking spots downtown - for ex - closer to the corner of all streets (could be black signs over the meters for no parking there when winter weather would make it to hard for snow removal). + too many loading signs downtown. seems to me that there could be arranegements made for deliveries during part days - eg: 9-11:30 am freeing these areas up for parking during the busier lunch & afternoon/evening hrs. + no parking by the courthouse should only be 9-5 as there are other parking places available after 5. + when bldgs have closed down - eg: like CBC - the no parking & loading & handicapped zones should be removed & reg partking meters installed.

    I can't talk about the efficiency at City of St. John's as a whole - having not had much experience with them. However, I do know that while he could be very brash, former mayor Andy Wells was generally highly defensive & supportive of city workers whenever he talked about them & Mayor O'Keefe & most all councillors are the same way - after all -these are the people that do what needs to be done. However, I believe that if City Council really looked at being efficient, that would help a lot with the overall budget. I suspect this hasn't been done for a while.

    I find the Mr. whoevers that the mayor & councillors refer to & even talk to at City Council meetings seem like people who have a lot of power (same as some of the people I've dealt with in some Dept's of city Hall & council tends to defer to them - use them to back up what they are saying. I do not find these people to be very open. I realize that what they say may be a legal opinion & may be based on work of their department's - I really think that in many instances, it is same old, same old & support the city's wants.

    I have also noted in the last # of years that the city has made it very difficult for some individual employees - cases which have made the news - some of which have resulted in lawsuits & some of which have been reasonable accommodation/bullying issues issues & have seen the strong arm of the city.

    & that's what I really think - really looking at the efficiency of running the city & the way you deal with citizens will help with the taxes we pay.

  • Graham
    July 01, 2010 - 19:53

    The number of appeals may be down because all the candidates promised to reduce the mill rate to a reasonable value to allow for the huge jump in assessments prior to the election.

    Personally, I think these assessments are out to lunch given our economy and given where we live - NL. It seems these assessments belong elsewhere in Canada - perhaps Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver. They don't really reflect true value for services here in NL. Why should I pay 40% more for the exact same thing I bought last year ?

    I know I would like to appeal the assessment, but like most, fear of the reassessment coming back higher as is usually the case. I don't want to be punished further.

    Paying more taxes because our assessments increased 40% does not mean I will receive 40% more city services (maybe 40% more snow plowed into my driveway if I do appeal). Nothing will actually change in the way of city services, although I bet they'll still try and reduce budget costs.

    This does not only apply to St. John's, but to the surrounding areas such as Paradise and CBS as well. Assessments have gone mad this year and so have the homeowners.

  • Craig
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    The Mil rate system has to change, When can we go to a system of pay for services rendered . How would people like it if the price of gasoline was tied to how much the blue book value of your car was, old car $1.00/liter - nice car $2.00/liter.

  • Why Not?
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    Residential property tax = Residential Revenue requirement divided by number of Electical meters.

    All home owners pay and all renters pay the same rate for same services.

    We all pay the same for garbage, water and sewer, road maintenance, snow clearning, administration of the City.

    Why Not?

  • Nasty
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    Speaking of snow being plowed onto private property by the City, what will be done this year to prevent this offence? If the City is permitted to plow in personal property, damage fences and lawns, are we able to return the snow to where it came, back onto the street with the same lack of recourse that the taxpayers have when it comes to damage to personal property?

    Let the games begin again, this year if they block my access I will be reversing the charges to have it removed so I have access to my property and am able to come and go as I please in this free society.

  • Student
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    We appealed our assesment last time and it went up. We were later told by someone who worked with a town that 90% of appeals go up so I guess people have learned there lessons.