The province shifting from a hybrid assessment model to a centralized model will cost the County of St. Paul an additional $13,000 in 2021, $51,000 in 2022, and continue to increase by $1,000 every year until 2025 when it will cost $54,000.
The assessment model determines how many of the county’s designated industrial properties are visited and directly assessed for taxes each year, versus having their taxes calculated based on an estimated value and reports provided by industry.
The County of St. Paul has approximately 1400 designated industrial properties, making up roughly 35 per cent of the tax revenues collected.
In response to the change, which was imposed by the province a year ahead of schedule, the County of St. Paul is changing their agreement with Accurate Assessment, the company which currently manages their industrial assessments.
Part of the reason for the increase after 2021 is because the county will no longer be reimbursed by the province for the work done by Accurate Assessment.
According to County CAO Sheila Kitz, they want to expand the current agreement to include some industrial assessment contracting services and to convert the data received from Municipal Affairs into a format the County is able to use with their tax software.
“Because our assessors do this type of work for many municipalities in the province, they are very well aware of what initiatives have been announced, they get the drilling reports on wells. So they would be able to have a look at the Municipal Affairs data and have a good idea of whether it’s accurately reflecting all of the costs,” said Kitz.
“While it will cost the County a little bit extra on that end, I think it would be very valuable to ensure that we are receiving the assessments that we should be receiving for taxation purposes,” she said.
A concern Kitz had raised at the January council meeting is that the information the County receives from Municipal Affairs for their 46 linear properties takes administrative staff roughly a week to convert to a format they can use for their tax notices.
“We have about 1400 DIP properties. And so it will be pretty important to be able to get that data in a format that can be transferred over to our tax system so that the county can send out tax notices,” she said.
“We anticipate not getting this data until the very end of February, when it’s due. And then we will be wanting to make final budget decisions every year for that. So to have that extra capability will be very important, and I don’t think I have enough staff to be able to deal with the data in the format that it comes,” said Kitz.
A motion by Div. 3 Coun. Cliff Martin to extend the agreement with Accurate Assessment until 2025 carried with unanimous support.
“For now it’s our job to look after our own business. And I think that’s where this cost is. Although it’s frustrating, we have to do it. It’s prudent for us to have another set of professional eyes watching the numbers and making sure that work is getting done,” said County of St. Paul Reeve Steve Upham.
County to pursue Rural Municipalities Association resolution
In discussion of the assessment issue, council asked if other municipalities moved to the centralized assessment model have similar problems with the timing and format of the data received. According to Kitz, she’s been told of similar struggles by other municipalities.
“It seems a lot of wasted manpower is going into this in every municipality just because the format’s not right,” said Div. 1 Coun. Darrell Younghans.
Youghans proposed a county present a resolution at the Rural Municipalities Association to ask the provincial government to release the information in a format that is easy to use and standardized amongst the municipalities, and which includes details of the assessment.
“This should be part of the red tape reduction initiative should it not?” said Div. 6 Coun. Laurent Amyotte.
Younghans’ motion carried with unanimous support.