Thousands of Abbotsford residents will be asked to pay significantly more in property tax this year thanks to above-average increases in their property assessments.
But don’t blame the city, Mayor Henry Braun and several councillors said last week.
The city will collect 2.13 per cent more in property taxes this year. That would translate to $76 more in taxes for someone whose assessed property value increased by the city average of 32.8 per cent.
But a dramatic range in the increase to local property assessments means that some will pay hundreds of dollars more in tax, while others will likely see their bill go down.
Braun noted Monday that “the higher you go above the 32.8 per cent increase, the higher that [tax] increase will be.”
Some 2,000 residents will be told that their assessment has gone up by 20 per cent more than the average. An analysis by The News in January suggested that many of those owners would be looking at more than $550 in property taxes.
Braun said “there will be a lot of questions,” but said the city’s hands are tied. It can set different rates for different classes, but only one residential tax class exists. The City of Langley has called for the ability to tax single-family houses differently than apartments and townhouses, but other communities have objected.
Braun also expressed some skepticism about whether the assessments accurately reflect the market values of all the city’s homes and not just some portion of them.
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Council also isn’t reviving a proposal from last year that would have cut business taxes at the expense of homeowners.
Braun had previously said that businesses were shouldering too much of the property-tax burden, and that the ratio between business and residential taxes should be cut to 2:1.
Last year, the ratio – which had been decreasing gradually over time due to market forces – was at 2.38:1. Staff had presented council with two proposals to get to a fixed 2:1 rate, but to do so, residential property owners would have faced a considerable tax bump.
Council, though, voted to defer the proposal, with Coun. Dave Loewen at the time pointing to the already increasing cost of living and the ongoing and gradual reduction in the ratio.
This year, there was no sign of the plan when council discussed tax rates, and all tax revenue from all classes will rise by 2.13 per cent.
With the dramatic increase in residential assessment values, that means the ratio will jump to 2.78:1, its highest point since 2009.
Braun said that with the assessment-driven increase to some homeowners’ tax bills, adding to that wouldn’t be wise this year.
The ratio changes from year to year as new homes and businesses are built while the city aims to keep the share of municipal property tax each class pays level.
Over the last three years, residential property taxes have contributed 62.6 per cent to the city budget, with business taxes chipping in 28.1 per cent. The remainder comes from light industry, utilities and farm land.