City to examine policy to improve corrections for tax errors

By Tyler Marr
January 29, 2018 - 9:07pm Updated: January 30, 2018 - 8:33am

Devin Meeks was surprised to see the tax bill for the properties he manages jump more than $38,000.

After he received the tax notice in June 2017, he asked for a meeting with the city’s assessment department and City Manager Jim Toye to review the evaluation. All agreed the reassessed value of the properties was accurate, but it was discovered the assessment team had misclassified the buildings resulting in the large hike.

While the error was resolved, provincial laws require landlords give 12 months notice to tenants before increasing rent. The tax bill corrections were made in August 2017, leaving Meeks unable to increase rent until August of 2018.

But property taxes had actually increased Jan. 1, 2017, resulting in a 20 month period before he is able to recoup the now $64,491 tab.

Meeks said while he is willing to accept the property tax increase, he asked city council Monday for some relief on the bill and a remedy to the situation.

"Is there a process that can be done for people that own rental properties in the future so that we are not set up with failure?” he said. “If I owned a store in Prince Albert and the cost of my product was to go up, I could respond the next day. But what we are left with here is a fairly lengthy lag time between my costs increasing and my reaction time that I am not able to change.”

This drove various discussions among councillors, with several wanting to address the timeline in which property tax notices are sent out, especially for large increases. Other councillors said the lapse in time is just the way of the world and blamed the provincial government.

Mayor Greg Dionne, however, said the mistake fell on the back of the city and believed the financial department needed to come up with a creative way to assist Meeks.

“It was our error,” he said. “If we taxed it and assessed it in the wrong category, I don’t see why we are punishing the Meeks for that decision.”

Fearing this will not be the first case of assessment error, Dionne said the city needed to come up with a policy to deal with corrections and said Meeks' request was reasonable.

“We have had this wrong for many years. We find it and instantly want them to correct it. My argument is they don’t have the ability to do it,” he said. “How many others are we going to find that we did errors?… I won’t punish somebody for an error that I made.”

Others agreed, including Coun. Ted Zurakowski, who said the city needed to "sink our teeth into this a bit."

"I am curious if there is a better way to do business," he said. "I don’t think we can just say this is the way other levels of government do it, and we are going to treat you just as poorly. I think we need to do a better job."

Council settled on finding a solution for the Meeks situation and asked administrators to craft a policy to address future assessment errors. 

 

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