Your property assessment going up doesn’t necessarily indicate your taxes are going up. (Citizen file)

Cowichan assessment terrors largely unjustified

Until the budget process is complete, property owners shouldn't worry too much

Following the announcement of substantial increases in property assessments in the Cowichan Valley, there have been a few taxing days for some property owners.

But a little research will go a long way to understanding that just because assessments have climbed by double digits, you won’t likely be facing a staggering tax bill as a result.

“Just because there’s an increase in your assessment, that doesn’t necessarily translate to an increase in your taxes,” explains Tina Ireland, regional assessor BC Assessment.

That message is sometimes difficult to get to the public and Ireland says BC Assessment has upped its game in an effort to inform taxpayers about the process.

“We try year after to year to put more information out there,” she says. “We’ve even done YouTube videos and we feel our website makes it easier for people to understand.”

Local governments also pick up on the angst from taxpayers soon after the assessment notices are sent out. But until the budget process is complete, property owners shouldn’t worry too much, suggests Mark Frame, North Cowichan’s general manager in the Financial and Protective Services Division.

Average assessments for single family residential properties in the municipality are up 14 per cent for 2019.

“A 14 per cent assessment increase does not equate to a 14 per cent tax increase,” Frame says. “The municipality’s budget determines the amount of taxes that need to be raised to provide the service levels approved by council. Those taxes are then distributed over the new assessments.

“North Cowichan is currently proposing a tax increase of 2.9 per cent in 2019. This is an average tax increase.”

Frame adds that depending on your specific assessment, you could fall into one of three categories.

“If your property assessment increase is the average of 14 per cent, your property tax increase will be 2.9 per cent in 2019. If your property assessment increase is less than 14 per cent, your property tax increase will be less than 2.9 per cent.

“If your property assessment increase is more than 14 per cent, your property tax increase will be more than 2.9 per cent,” Frame points out.

The situation for taxpayers in the City of Duncan is the same, says finance director Bernice Crossman.

“The average value of a home in City of Duncan has increased from $316,788 to $357,026, an increase of 13 per cent,” Crossman says.

“An increase in your property assessment does not mean your taxes will automatically go up by the same amount. If all property values increase by the same amount, taxes on individual properties will not change,” Crossman says.

“Properties that increase or decrease in value by more or less than the average will experience changes in their taxes that are more or less than the average increase.”

Both the City of Duncan and the Municipality of North Cowichan are well into their budgeting processes.

“All budget meetings are advertised and we welcome the public to attend,” Crossman says.

A Budget Open House will be held on Jan. 14, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at City Hall to seek public feedback on the draft budget so far.

In early March council will review the proposed tax rates based on a draft budget and public input.

“We propose to have the Tax Rate Bylaw adopted on May 6. Once the final property tax rates have been approved by city council, property tax notices will be prepared and mailed in mid-May,” Crossman says.

“North Cowichan has to adopt a tax rates bylaw before May 15 each year,” Frame says. BC Assessment will release a Revised Assessment Roll in early April that will reflect any corrections or assessment appeals. Once the municipality has that roll, the tax rates bylaw will be completed.”

BC Assessment says its target is to have less than two per cent of assessments appealed in any given year. In recent years that number has been closer to one per cent.

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