EDITORIAL: Assessment time need not be tense

Various factors make up property tax calculations by municipalities

This time of year is often dreaded by property owners, who wonder how their home and/or land was judged to have gained or lost in value from the previous year.

As Victoria area assessor Tina Ireland pointed out to us this week, on the occasion of West Shore and other B.C. residents receiving  their 2017 valuations from the B.C. Assessment Authority, higher assessments are not necessarily a cause for alarm.

Municipalities still set property tax rates, based on their requirement to match their revenues with their expenses. Those that have undertaken major capital projects, for example, will often find a need to raise taxes to pay for them. The total assessed value of property within their jurisdiction is but one ingredient used to determine how much property tax people will pay.

The overall rise in assessed value on the West Shore, specifically in View Royal and Colwood – they showed the largest average increase – comes as no surprise, given the hike in real estate prices between the summer of 2015 and last summer, when the current assessments were done.

There are occasional blips in the system that create unfair situations. An example might be when the value of an unimproved property rises by an exorbitant amount due to improvements or rebuilds of nearby homes.

But by and large, the assessment process is relatively fair and reflects the existing marketplace and the price for which homes and other properties could reasonably sell.

As such, a relatively small number of property owners choose to appeal their assessments. Those who do have a beef can often resolve any dispute with a phone conversation with an assessor.

So while these larger-than-usual increases in assessments in our area make for an important news story, residents need not get anxious over this year’s tax bill, which may increase, or not.

At the end of the day, the annual assessments remain a benchmark to give people a better idea of the value of what, for the majority, is their most valuable asset. And that kind of knowledge can never be a bad thing.