News release

Amendments to Municipal Government, Assessment Acts Introduced

SERVICE N.S./MUNICIPAL RELATIONS---Amendments to Municipal Government, Assessment Acts Introduced


Two bills -- one affecting property tax on waterfront properties and the other, assessment of industrial properties -- were introduced today by Angus MacIsaac, Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

Through an amendment to the Municipal Government Act, the province is proposing to give municipalities the authority to provide relief to owners of waterfront properties who are affected by substantial increases in municipal property tax. The change would enable municipalities to set a lower tax rate for homeowners whose property fronts on the ocean, a river or a lake, or has a view of the water, where the value of the property is influenced by its proximity to water.

"Sudden increases in property tax have created a financial problem for many Nova Scotians living in hot waterfront real estate markets," Mr. MacIsaac said.

In Nova Scotia, properties are assessed for market value by the provincial government. This information is then used by municipalities to set their commercial and residential tax rates. The amount of tax a property owner pays is determined by tax rate times assessed value of the property.

In some areas, particularly along the coast of Lunenburg County and in the Baddeck area, a high demand for waterfront properties has caused the assessment of some properties to increase significantly from one year to the next. When assessment increases but the tax rate remains the same, the result is an increased property tax bill for property owners.

"This amendment would give municipalities the authority to set a lower tax rate to offset the increased market value of these properties," Mr. MacIsaac said. "This problem is not widespread across the province -- it is localized. Therefore, it is best that it be resolved at the local level. After all, resolving local issues is what municipal governments are all about."

In municipalities offering the lower rate, property owners will be able to apply to be designated as a "water property" to qualify for the lower rate.

"Municipalities have full control over this process," Mr. MacIsaac said. "They determine if there will be a lower rate and they also determine if a particular property is designated as a water property within the parameters of the act."

Mr. MacIsaac also introduced a bill to amend the Assessment Act and the Municipal Grants Act. The amendment to the Assessment Act would clarify the rules regarding the assessment of industrial properties.

"It is important that the law clarifies what can be assessed," Mr. MacIsaac said. "Otherwise, the courts will decide for us. Public policy should be determined by government -- not the courts."

The Municipal Grants Act amendments allow for adjustments to uniform assessment as a result of assessment appeals. Uniform assessment determines a municipality's contributions to education and corrections and its entitlement to equalization. An appeal of assessment can take years to resolve, but contributions and entitlements are based on yearly uniform assessment. If an assessment appeal is resolved in the property owner's favour, it could result in the municipality having overpaid past contributions to programs or been underpaid equalization grants.

This amendment to the act compensates for over- or under-payments by allowing for adjustment in the municipality's uniform assessment.

FOR BROADCAST USE:

The Nova Scotia government is proposing a means for municipalities to give relief to owners of waterfront properties. Many have seen their property tax bill increase greatly from one year to the next.

Legislation introduced today would allow municipalities to set a lower tax rate for people whose property is close to the water and whose property value has increased because of the local real estate market.

Each municipality can decide whether to set a lower rate for these property owners.

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Contact:

David MacNeil
Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations 902-424-6336 E-mail:
kjd            May 2, 2002         12:15 P.M.