By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
Homeowners, take a second look at your recent property evaluation – it could spell out a larger bill come tax time.
Speaking to councillors during a meeting of the committee of the whole, Jim Clapp, the Region of Durham’s finance commissioner, says a preliminary look at the latest property evaluations show that homeowners are going to have to shell out more of their cash when the tax bill comes, thanks to growing home prices.
“There are extreme changes in this reassessment,” Clapp warned councillors.
Across the region, 66.2 per cent of homeowners can expect to see their taxes go up in 2017. More than half of those would have seen their property’s evaluation go up by between 32 and 37 per cent. An unlucky 0.5 per cent of Durham homeowners – or approximately 980 households – have seen their evaluations go up by 60 per cent or more, leading to a heavier bill at tax time.
Those living in multi-residential buildings are seeing increases as well – however, 34 per cent of taxpayers in this category can expect to see increases in their evaluations of 45 per cent or higher.
Clapp says this bracket should be of concern to those needing assistance from the region when it comes to having a roof above their head.
“Social housing falls into this category, which surprises me and should probably surprise you (the councillors) that there’s a lot of social housing properties showing substantial reassessment increases,” he says.
“Obviously, that will turn into an increase in their property tax bills and costs to them and the region.”
Steve Parish, the mayor of Ajax, says that such a high increase in tax payments from the reassessments alone – not including the tax percentage increase proposed by the region – will leave residents questioning why they have to give away more of their money.
“This is going to drive rent increases for people, some of whom have a very limited ability to afford it. It’s going to drive significant property tax increases,” Parish said.
“It’s going to, perhaps, drive a view that there shouldn’t be any tax increases beyond assessment because assessment’s killing the taxpayer by itself, and I take it this will become a provincial issue because I take it these stats are similar in Aurora and Milton and all through the GTA and pockets of the province like London and Ottawa.”
Mayor John Henry agreed, adding that residents already have to pay too much from all levels of government, and higher housing evaluations are not helping.
“At the end of the day, there is no hope for young people in our community, the cost of buying a home is almost out of reach,” he said.
“My hydro bill at my house and my property taxes are greater than my mortgage. I’ve paid my mortgage off, but I don’t see my kids paying their mortgages off.”
Parish says that the region needs to start communicating to residents that this property assessment-driven tax hike is coming sooner rather than later.
“(The budget is) going to come in on target, if history is any indication, with a two-per-cent tax rate increase,” he said.
“A few months after that, people will get their first real tax bill. The reaction will be, ‘How could you pass a two per cent increase on the taxpayer, knowing that that was going to be on top, for many of us, a seven-per-cent assessment driven increase. Or eight, or 10, or 12 or 15.’”
Parish added that passing a budget that carries no tax increase could be a problem onto itself, as regional services would be affected as a result.
However, things may be a bit easier for some non-residential property owners. Clapp says that 62.6 per cent of Durham’s commercial properties can expect to see a regional tax decrease. The same can be said for 79.2 per cent of industrial properties, 74.2 per cent of office buildings and 50.5 per cent of shopping centres.
In total, this means that residential taxpayers will be covering 86.7 per cent of regional taxes by 2020, when the next property evaluations will be done.
Clapp adds that due to the growth for residential taxpayers and the decrease from the commercial sector, the total amount of money entering the region’s coffers before any tax increases will be about the same as last year.
With the next regional budget set to be passed in February and the first tax bills coming a few months later in June, Clapp says councillors need to be prepared for the influx of calls they are going to get from angry constituents opening their tax bills.
“I’m forewarning you that the questions from the taxpayers, it’s not going to be well understood, it’s going to be all over the map, and quite frankly, hoopla will start in June when they get their tax bills because a lot of taxpayers will not, probably, understand (that it’s) simply from reassessment.”