Even a visit by the local expert failed to answer Trail council’s questions about the volatility in real property assessments this year.
After 2016 BC Assessment land values spiked or dropped in Trail with no apparent rhyme or reason, city officials requested a meeting with the BC Assessment Authority (BCA) in hopes getting to the bottom line. The overall shift from last year has thrown a wrench into property tax apportionment and been a source of sometimes heated debate during budget deliberations.
“We are trying to understand what’s happening in our community,” city mayor Mike Martin explained to Ramaish Shah, Kootenay Columbia deputy assessor, during Monday’s governance meeting. “I took a single street with 43 homes and looked at the variation for what appeared to (have) no rationale – some homes went up and some went down more dramatically than we’ve every seen.”
Looking back to 2011, Martin says most home assessments remained relatively static, varying by a few thousand annually. But this year, those values swung between $5,000 and $20,000 on properties that for the most part, remained unchanged.
“That’s what has lead us to ask you here,” said Martin. “It’s almost like there’s something that has led to this dramatic change, and for whatever reason, the housing stock in Trail has seen a huge impact.”
Shah responded that BCA did change certain methodology this year, which led to fluctuations in home values, not land values.
“We look at various factors on home characteristics from year to year, and revise our data based on what information comes out,” he explained. “It’s difficult from an assessment perspective, we don’t actually get to see the inside of homes.”
BCA evaluated home improvements across the province this year, Shah continued.
“And we’ve made changes based on what we think older houses are worth relative to newer houses, and what they are selling for,” he said. “There were cases where some homes may have gone up and some down, but again the underlying goal is two houses of similar size, similar age and similar characteristics would be assessed similarly,” Shah added. “That may not have been the case in the past, but optimistically, they are now – the result is what you may have seen.”
In the end, Shah’s presentation brought up more questions than answers.
Council members noted cases of next door neighbours receiving wide disparities in home assessments even though their properties are relatively alike.
“What did we really learn today?” Martin questioned, following regular council. “Basically we did not learn much about why the assessments changed so dramatically other than it appears there was some change to the methodology,” he added. “And we need to learn more about that aspect and why the change took place as well as having such a huge impact on Trail.”
Working toward local poverty reduction
Council agreed to Mayor Martin’s travel expenses for the regional Community Economic Development Forum in Revelstoke later next month. This year’s forum is focused on understanding the economics of poverty reduction, which Martin says is a local community issue, evidenced by increased use of the Trail United Church and Salvation Army food banks. “Maybe I will come back with some ideas,” he added. Lectures include, “The Socio-Economic Benefits of Poverty Reduction,” and “Reducing Poverty as an Investment, not a Cost.”
Cash for Nelson police camp
Queen City police are hosting “Emergency Services Camp 2016” this weekend, providing grades 11 and 12 West Kootenay students with a real-life police academy experience. Trail council allotted the requested $200 to support the program, with successful applicants taking part in activities police recruits actually experience, including demonstrations and activities by other emergency services personnel. Students spend three days, beginning Friday, at L.V. Rogers Secondary School, meals, lodging and uniform (embroidered T-shirt, sweat pants) are supplied by the program.
Pause for a cause
Council agreed to sponsor BC SPCA’s 2016 Paws for Cause with a $250 bronze sponsorship, and waive 50 per cent, or $80, for rental of the Gyro Park gazebo. The event is slated for the fall.
Council agreed to show support for the local LGBTQ community by raising a Pride flag during the West Kootenay week of observance (date to be announced). The request came from River Jones of Freedom Quest Regional Youth Services during April 11 Trail council, when she reported struggles the LGBTQ youth face and