View Royal Mayor David Screech finds himself annually explaining to residents that property taxes don’t increase or decrease to the same degree as property assessments. With assessments jumping 25 to 30 per cent in his municipality alone, he felt the need to post an explanation on social media. (Black Press Media file photo)

View Royal Mayor David Screech finds himself annually explaining to residents that property taxes don’t increase or decrease to the same degree as property assessments. With assessments jumping 25 to 30 per cent in his municipality alone, he felt the need to post an explanation on social media. (Black Press Media file photo)

Assessments vs. taxation: why soaring Island assessments may not mean soaring taxes

Average increase, municipal budget shape tax increases more than individual assessment hike

Just because your property assessment is way up, it doesn’t mean your property taxes will grow proportionately.

View Royal Mayor David Screech has seen this common misconception a lot on social media the past few days, following the release of the BC Assessment Authority’s property valuations for 2022.

“I don’t remember seeing assessment rates grow by 25 to 30 per cent, so that’ll be why people are so concerned,” he said. “The average price passed $1 million; that fact alone creates some concern and angst in people.”

While he hadn’t had any calls directly to town hall on the issue, Screech took the opportunity to share a Facebook post written by Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart, seeking to ease residents’ concerns about how their property assessment might impact property taxes. The City of Colwood posted a similar article to their website.

Property assessment numbers spiked across the Island, especially on the West Shore. Metchosin and the Gulf Islands, respectively, recorded average increases of 35 per cent, followed by Sooke and Highlands at 34 per cent.

The assessment of a typical single-family home rose by 29 per cent in Colwood, 28 per cent in Langford, and 27 per cent in View Royal, which fell just shy of the $1-million mark at $998,000.

Seeing property assessments rise as much as 35 per cent doesn’t mean one’s property taxes will go up by an equivalent amount.

“The only thing that is meaningful is the city’s budget,” said real estate analyst Leo Spalteholz, owner of househuntvictoria.ca. “So if their budget goes up, then you will probably be paying more property taxes.”

While most municipalities haven’t given final approval to their 2022 budget, Sooke has approved a six-per-cent increase while Victoria has proposed a three-per-cent hike.

Screech said it was too early to forecast an exact tax percentage increase for View Royal, but said council will try and keep it as small as possible.

Typically, municipalities require annual property tax increases to cover budget increases.

Rarely in Greater Victoria has any jurisdiction not needed some tax increase to pay for rising costs.

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“(A scenario) when people actually do pay more property taxes is if their property went up much more than the average,” Spalteholz explained. If the average assessment in one’s municipality rose 25 per cent, and yours went up 40 per cent, he said, “you’re going to be paying a lot more property tax because you’re going to be taking a bigger slice of the pie.”

In areas such as Langford, this may impact people who own single family homes, which increased more on average than condos, Spalteholz said.

Conversely, if your assessment increased less than the average, your property tax should go down proportionally, and depending on your municipality’s budget may decrease compared to 2021. Condo owners in Langford may see this outcome, with their property assessments increasing less on average than single family homes.

Sooke Mayor Maja Tait said it’s a good thing for municipalities that property taxes aren’t tied to property assessments.

“That would be so unsustainable, because what if property assessments went down?” she said. “We’d be in trouble.”

With 2022 an election year, it’s unlikely municipal councils will approve massive tax increases anyway, Spalteholz added.

READ MORE: Property assessments up more than 40 per cent in some Vancouver Island communities

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