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COLUMN: Higher property assessments causing fear

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Mario Fazio

I have been hearing from people all over Sarnia-Lambton about their recent property assessment increases.

Not just pricey lakefront and river properties, but also small starter homes in the low $100,000 range, and everything in between.

People are fearful of how this will affect their real estate taxes, and their ability to pay.

Municipalities should and do look at overall total assessment increases, and can adjust their mill rate downward accordingly.  People are afraid that municipalities, both city and county, will simply apply their current tax rates to the increased assessments, causing tax bills to rise.

But this doesn’t have to be the case. Due to the raised assessments the city should consider lowering the mill rate.

Mario Fazio
Mario Fazio

The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) has said Ontario homeowners can expect an 18% increase in property values. Property notices are being mailed out across Ontario, and the stated values will be used to determine what you will pay to your local municipality in taxes over the next four years.

If homeowners believe that they can get the stated assessment value by selling their property, then the assessments are fairly accurate. MPAC looks at sales and compares a property to similar properties that have sold in that area to determine a value. If, however, you believe your assessment is high, there are things that you can do to get a more accurate assessment.

Increased property values should be a good thing. We should be hopeful that our values go up, allowing us to build more equity in our homes.

However, people are concerned with ever increasing real estate taxes, and wrongly blame higher assessments for this.

Perhaps we need to look at all of the services a municipality provides, and is forced to provide through higher government downloads, and assess our wants and needs.

We may have to make hard decisions and cut some high cost services, or risk becoming like some U.S. cities in which basic services are minimal or non-existent.

We should also look at where and how services are being used, and examine if it is fair that some property owners pay a lot more for what they get than others.

Some North American jurisdictions use other models of taxation that are more fair and accountable. They include a combination of assessments and services rendered.

Sarnia–Lambton real estate values are still some of the lowest in Ontario and the country, and should continue to rise. We should ensure that our politicians keep costs to operate affordable.

We all benefit from increasing real estate values, and shouldn’t be fearful of affordability because of higher taxes.

Any appeals or request for reconsideration must be completed by Aug. 31, 2016, for 2017 and by March 31, of each subsequent year.

Mario Fazio has been a local real estate broker since 1977.

 

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