The deadline to appeal the assessed value of property for the City of Weyburn has passed and this year four residents appealed their assessment.
The appeal period closed on May 23 at 1 p.m.
The number of appellants was down from last year’s seven appeals, but city assessor and finance manager Brenna Keeler said that the figures are about average for Weyburn.
In terms of residential property assessment appeals Keeler said there are a few steps to the process.
First, Keeler explains the assessment process to appellants.
“We can usually explain it to them, often they just need a better understanding of it,” said Keeler.
Property values are not assessed by the city itself but instead are done by the independent agency, the Saskatchewan Assessment Management Agency (SAMA), which has a responsibility to the province’s municipalities and property owners.
SAMA’s stated goals are to “provide reliable, up-to-date property assessment valuations — the pillar upon which governments set tax policy and property tax rates.”
The city contracts SAMA to assess property values and report the findings back.
The city then takes over in tax collection as well as property value appeals.
If appellants wish to continue their appeal after an explanation they submit their information to the city, disputing the assessed value of their property.
Residential property owners then have a consultation with city staff, checking over the facts on their property tax assessment sheet.
Staff and appellants check the assessment sheet to make sure the items listed are correct, fixing any inaccuracies that may be included in the assessment.
“If the assessment says you have a hot tub and you don’t, that can be corrected,” said Keeler.
If the information is correct though, Keeler said “ there’s not a whole lot you can do about changing the value of the things listed.”
Appellants can then either withdraw their appeal or continue on to a board of revision.
Appellants submit an information package to the board, explaining their case. SAMA submits a rebuttal to the package, and then a hearing with three members of the board of revision is held.
SAMA uses historical data to calculate the value of properties for tax purposes.
Currently assessments are based on data from a property’s value as of June 30, 2006.
This often means assessed property values are significantly lower than the property’s current value — think of the increase in property values since 2006.
However, this baseline data changes every four years, last changing in 2009 and set to change again in 2013.
In 2013 the new baseline data will be the value of the property as of Jan. 1, 2011.
For most this will mean an increase in the assessed value of their property.
With increased property values, fears over an increase in the amount of property taxes collected are raised; property taxes are based on the property’s value multiplied by a mill rate that is set by the municipal government.
Not to worry though, said Keeler, when baseline property values are reset by SAMA the city takes that into account when setting the mill rate.
“Say property values go up by 15 per cent, then the city decreases the mill rate by 15 per cent,” said Keeler.
Adjusting the mill rate in this way is known as a “revenue neutral” approach, with the city taking in the same amount of money despite higher assessed property values.
Although the city may compensate for the increase in property values it doesn’t mean property taxes won’t increase when new baseline data is used to calculate property values.
This is because the city is not the only government collecting money from property taxes.
Starting in 2010 the provincial government took over the responsibility of setting the education mill rate that is also collected based on property value and is applied province wide.
With some communities seeing a large jump in their assessed property values and others seeing only moderate increases, it remains to be seen how much the provincial government will change the province-wide education mill rate.
Since the baseline data is reset only once every four years the provincial government has yet to deal with a change in the baseline data of property values; the first time they tackle the issue will be for 2013.
Provincial officials say it is to soon to speculate on what the province might do with the education mill rate, with a large amount of data still to be processed.
Jeff Welke, executive director for communications at Municipal Affairs, noted the provincial government actually reduced the amount of education property taxes by 22 per cent when the province took responsibility for setting the rate in 2010.