PORT HAWKESBURY: Residential and commercial assessments have gone up in the Town of Port Hawkesbury

Finance Director Erin MacEachen told the Jan. 17 regular monthly meeting of Port Hawkesbury Town Council that assessments went up by 7.7 per cent in the 2023 assessment roll, which will be reflected in the upcoming 2023-2024 budget.

“Our historical trends have been a decline in assessment but this year we’re seeing some growth which is consistent with the national trend and obviously provincial trend,” she said.

MacEachen reported that the residential rate rose by 8.8 per cent over last year, equating to almost $240,000 in new revenue, while the commercial rate rose by 7 per cent, or about $150,000 in new revenue.

“This is the first year we’ve seen some more significant growth in residential and commercial assessments,” she explained. “A 10-year growth in our residential assessment is 15 per cent, so on average about 1.5 per cent per year, but we’re seeing that primarily in the last couple of years.”

As far as resource, which is a small portion of assessments, MacEachen said there was a decline of 0.4 per cent.

MacEachen said she was “encouraged” by the uptick in commercial assessments, after years of decline.

“We have seen a substantial one year increase in our commercial assessment, but again, if you compare it back to where we were at in 2014, we’re still one per cent lower in assessment for commercial than we were in 2014,” she said. “So no real pick up there, we’re just basically getting back to where we were.”

Compared to other Cape Breton municipalities, MacEachen said the town’s rate was at the bottom, as Inverness County saw a 15 per cent hike, while Richmond County assessments went up to 8.6 per cent.

“We’re still happy with an increase versus a decrease, which is kind of a good news story for us from a budget perspective,” she noted.

The finance director also noted that the town balanced last year’s budget by taking $155,000 from reserves.

“So close to half the revenue growth from this year’s assessment growth is already committed if we maintain those expenses,” she explained. “There is typically increases in expenses when we look at education, when we look at policing, all our large significant expenses.”

MacEachen cautioned that assessment rates from Property Valuation Services Corporation (PVSC) are based on previous years.

“It’s nice to see some growth, it’s positive, but you just have to keep in mind that these are based on 2021 sales values,” she said. “PVSC uses a year behind when they’re looking at sales, or they’re analyzing sales and comparing that to your community, and then determining what the market increase is in your communities. We know that the market has cooled in 2022 so this should impact our upcoming annual assessment.”

MacEachen added they will have a fuller understanding of the number of accounts and the value of accounts by the end of February.