Richmond wants to update tax rolls after finding multiple properties that were not charged taxes

ARICHAT: Richmond County wants to find out which property owners have gone decades without paying municipal taxes.

Warden Amanda Mombourquette said during budget deliberations, it was brought to council’s attention there are properties on the tax roll that do not have assessment account numbers assigned.

“Property taxes are a primary source of revenue, so after looking at a sampling of those, it looked like there may be some additional resources, or additional work for staff to complete, in terms of updating the roll,” she told the virtual meeting. “Maybe it is just as simple as instructing staff to look into a strategy for us to have the tax roll updated.”

Deputy Warden Michael Diggdon wanted to know if the municipality should contact or meet with Property Valuation Services Corporation (PVSC) about the missing numbers.

“Why did it take so long for the realization of so many pieces of property not being taxed over the course of many, many years?”

CAO Don Marchand said PVSC is responsible for assessing and matching numbers, and he suspects they are aware of these properties.

“There’s a requirement there to have somebody do that work, and restrictions with respect to the number of (municipal) staff involved in the current duties, there just wasn’t enough time to really delve into it and take a good look at it,” he explained. “I think what you’re looking at there is two groups, or two organizations, land registration and PVSC and they try to work together. All rural municipalities have this problem.”

Although it is council’s prerogative and staff will assess what needs to be done, then report back to council, the CAO said this could be a costly and lengthy process.

“It is a long-term process, it is something that would take several years to complete,” Marchand said. “And even at that, would it really be complete? It would be ongoing maintenance that would be required.”

He said if council wishes, staff can assess what needs to be done, then report back to council.

Diggdon responded that PVSC should also conduct re-evaluations on property values, which he claimed are inconsistent.

“We missed the boat on hundreds of thousands of dollars in the past 20-30 years and I guess those who manage to fall under the radar of not paying taxes on their property got a freebie,” the deputy warden noted. “For a county to be fair to all the members of our community, it’s only fair that everybody’s on an equal playing field.”

To “clean up the whole system,” Diggdon also proposed that staff also look at fire levies.

“Some are being charged on one piece of the property, and the property right next door doesn’t have any, the property right after has some, some are being charged where it’s on an island where fire service can’t even get to,” he told council.

District 3 Councillor Melanie Sampson said the municipality needs a strategy which can be informed by the work of other units, allowing them to find out the timelines, costs and potential results.

“Other municipalities have done some of this work already, so no need to kind of re-create the wheel,” she said. “I think we should thread cautiously in terms of the money that we spend in order to do that work.”

District 5 Councillor Brent Sampson was under the impression that staff was already instructed to do this during budget deliberations.

Diggdon responded this was raised again during the virtual session to bring residents up-to-speed. He said it could be costly, but could prove worthwhile.

“Our CAO and staff personally took 10 parcels of land out of 100, that I had, and when they were checked, there was eight out of the 10 that did require new PID numbers and that would re-assessed tax numbers,” he replied. “To me, that’s revenue that has been lost for many, many years.”

Council approved a motion to instruct staff to conduct an assessment using information from other municipalities, then come up with a strategy to update and maintain the tax rolls for all taxes, including fire levies, following budget deliberations.