By Andrea Arnold
BC Assessment Deputy Assessor Erin Smith presented to Valemount Council on Feb 28th. She broke down the assessment process as well as the appeals process and timeline.
Smith explained that a majority of properties are valued on the market value as of July 1st. As market values change every year, reassessment must happen every year as well.
Some of the other factors that can affect property assessment are whether it is an income-producing property, what is the highest and best use for it, what is legally able to be built, if it is financially feasible and is it maximally productive.
There are nine different assessment categories: residential, utilities, supportive housing, major industry, light industry, business and other (anything that doesn’t fall under the other categories), managed forests, recreational and non-profit, and farmland.
There are two common exemptions that will provide a release from paying all or a portion of a tax assessed: permissive – Property owned or held by a not-for-profit corporations and statutory – usually government properties or properties that provide some equivalence to government services, and also include places of worship, cemeteries and certain farm fixtures.
Smith broke down the yearly timeline of the assessment process. Jan 1st – 31st is the inquiry period. “We like to have people call us with questions,” she said. “Jan 31st is the final date for appeals to the first level of review.”
Feb 1st – March 31st is the revised assessment roll time when appeals are reviewed. April 1st – Sept 30th assessment staff work on production tasks, and April 30th is the final date for the second level of appeal.
The remainder of the year staff focuses on roll setting. Oct 31st is the date for the physical condition and permitted use of a property as well as the deadline for municipalities to pass permissive exemption bylaws. Nov 30th is the last day they can reflect Land Title and Survey Authority changes in the roll, and the owner listed on the title as of Dec 31st is the individual responsible for the taxes.
Smith provided statistics from the last assessment roll for both the province as well as the Village of Valemount.
Overall, the property assessments for the province increased by about 12 per cent over the 2022 roll, she said.
“We assessed 2.16 Million properties for a total of just over 2.72 trillion dollars.”
The Village of Valemount had 869 assessed properties with a total value of $327.5 million. This is two more properties than last year and an increased overall property value of 24.8 per cent. 2.3 per cent was new construction, the rest of the increase from market value movement.
Smith showed graphs of what the overall provincial acceptance of assessments looks like with a comparison to Valemount, then showed a graph illustrating the change after the appeals have been reviewed. Provincially, there is an average 97-98% acceptance of assessment.
“Valemount does not follow the same trend as much of the province, but still falls within the ‘accepted’ per cent values,” Smith said.
She confirmed that one of the most common calls that BC Assessment staff gets following the assessment roll out is concern that property taxes increase the same amount as the assessment percentage increase.
Smith explained that If the new assessed value of your property is lower than the average change for your property class, your taxes are likely to decrease. If the change is similar to the average change, then it is likely that your taxes will stay the same. If your change is higher than the average for your property class, then it is likely your taxes will increase.
“An increase in assessed value does not necessarily mean your taxes will increase by the same amount,”said Smith. “It’s not a one to one ratio.”
When a property assessment is submitted by the Jan 31 deadline, it goes to a review panel that is independent from BC assessment. Evidence is presented by BC Assessment and the party making the appeal in a hearing that takes an average of 30-45 min. If the outcome is not satisfactory, either party can submit a further appeal to the property assessment appeals board.
During a question and answer period following the presentation, Councillor Mulyk asked Smith who serves on the appeal board panel. Smith said that the assessment review panel is made up of designated constituents from different locations appointed by the Ministry. The appeal board is based out of Richmond with members from across the province. These members are lawyers, realtors, people with first hand knowledge of property tax and law.
In response to a question by Mayor Torgerson regarding appeals that have been found in favour of the appellant, Smith gave some surprising news.
“I would say that at the first level, at the review panel, we lose most of those, which is why we end up taking some of them to the second level of appeal,” she said. She then went on to explain that when someone calls in January, adjustments can be made if an error is found. This process is called a bypass, without going to the review panel.
Councillor Blanchette asked if when a call comes in with a concern does a person get sent out, or is it dealt with over the phone.
Smith said that typically they try to do it over the phone.
“But we will go do inspections if needed,” she said. “We also allow for property owner photo submissions.”
Smith said collaboration with municipalities helps them make more accurate assessments. Municipalities provide them with information around permits, bylaws, and boundaries.
If anyone has questions about the assessment process, they can first visit the BC assessment website as it contains the answers to many of the questions that are frequently asked. The Gov.bc website has information about appeals, homeowners grant and property tax deferrals.