Peninsula residents who received higher-than-average property assessments this year are learning the impact to their property taxes this week. (File photo)

City of Surrey ‘inundated’ as property-tax notices deliver sting

58,000 homeowners receive noticeably higher bills

Homeowners concerned earlier this year by substantial increases to their property assessments are now learning the actual impact, as property-tax notices are delivered throughout Surrey and White Rock.

For some, the annual bill is arriving with a sting – and City of Surrey officials, at least, are hearing the angst.

“I’m sure our property-tax line has been inundated with calls,” financial services manager Suzanne Fillion said Wednesday. “It’s definitely a difficult time.

“We haven’t seen an increase like this in quite some time, in assessed values.

“I thought it was bad when we saw 20 per cent increases in South Surrey.”

Fillion said Surrey began sending out tax notices last Friday to the approximately 145,000 residential properties in the city. For about 58,000 – those whose property’s assessed value increased by more than the city average of 36 per cent – the bill will be noticeably higher than last year.

And for some, the increase is dramatic.

“If you saw 100 per cent increase in assessed value, your tax bill will go up by 65 per cent, plus the five per cent that council approved for taxes,” Fillion said.

South Surrey’s Rob Neil said he opened his tax notice on Monday to an increase of 31 per cent over last year, to $5,301.65 from $4,045.85.

Neil was among Peninsula homeowners who had received courtesy letters from BC Assessment in December, warning of a substantial increase to his property value – it jumped to $1,358,300 from $775,500.

Still, “that’s a bit of a shock,” Neil said of the nearly $1,300 difference in his property taxes.

“We were kind of expecting it because our assessment went up 75 per cent. Doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.”

Neil and his wife, who live near Semiahmoo Secondary, were among many homeowners surprised earlier this year to discover their home’s value had skyrocketed, according to BC Assessment’s valuation of it as of last July 1 – prior to the province’s implementation of the 15 per cent foreign-buyers tax in August.

South Surrey senior Margo Woods’ two properties went up 49 and 70 per cent; White Rock’s Richard Boyer saw an increase of about 60 per cent.

BCA officials at the time assured that the boosts didn’t necessarily mean a hike in taxes – unless the jump was higher than the average in their area. The typical increase for detached houses in urban parts of Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley was 30-50 per cent.

Fillion noted South Surrey “is generally predominantly hit the hardest.”

“This year has been exceptionally high,” she said.

South Surrey’s Alfred Hills said his tax bill went up 10 per cent, to $8,200 from $7,400. He said his concern is less to do with assessment, questioning instead why the increase is “so much more” than Canada’s 1.4 per cent inflation rate, and where the money is going.

“I really can’t see the justification,” he said Wednesday, after writing a letter to the editor. “It should be about collecting enough money to cover your costs.”

In neighbouring White Rock, financial services director Sandra Kurylo told council in January that residential assessments had seen an overall increase of 38 per cent.

Wednesday, city spokesperson Ashley Gregerson said officials did not have on hand the number of White Rock homeowners who saw a higher jump in their property taxes as a result of their assessments being above the average.

So far, the city is not fielding concerns from residents who are seeing an increase, she said.

According to BCA figures, 1.38 per cent of property owners – 27,903 out of 2,017,364 – appealed assessments this year.

This week, a BCA spokesman said Election Act guidelines prohibit authority officials from making further comment to media until a cabinet is formed.

In an April news release, acting vice-president Jason Grant, citing a year with “dramatic increases in many urban areas,” said the low appeal rate “speaks to BC Assessment’s role in providing fair and accurate property assessments.”

Figures from previous years show the 2017 number represents an increase in appeals of 19.5 per cent over 2016, and a 56 per cent increase over 2014.

Neil said he had explored appealing but decided there was “no point” because houses were selling for the inflated prices.

“We bought in the area because it was close to the schools,” he said. “Now, it’s coming back to bite us.”

Fillion described 2016 as “a crazy year,” and noted the city doesn’t control assessed values, nor does it generate extra money from the increases.

“People think we’re gouging, we’re not,” she said.

She said a brochure sent out with property-tax notices explains the impact of the assessment; as well, a video on the city’s website details how property taxes – which must be paid by July 4 – are calculated and dispersed. It also explains the option some taxpayers may have to defer their property taxes.

“We’re getting a lot of complaints. We don’t want people to feel like they’re going to be homeless over these type of increases.”

tholmes@peacearchnews.com

Related:

North Delta property taxes rise after record-setting assessment increase

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