Still no date set for MPAC property assessments

By James Matthews

There is still no word on when the next general assessment of property values in Ontario will be carried out.

Haliburton County council heard during its June 11 meeting that property values will continue to be based on the 2016 assessment, the last time such an evaluation was undertaken by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC).

And that puts municipalities of all sizes in a bind when prices for materials and services continue to increase following supply issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. At least, that’s often the reason given for price increases.

“Given when the last general assessment was done, that assessment does not cover the cost of servicing in municipalities,” said Warden Liz Danielsen, the mayor of Algonquin Highlands.

“I know that it’s not something that’s within your control, when the next general assessment is done, but is there anything that you can say related to that, when the next general assessment will take place?”

The question was asked of Sarah Groves, account manager in municipal and stakeholder relations at MPAC.

“I do not have any information as to when the next general assessment update will occur,” Groves said.

She said MPAC is part of an ongoing a provincial property assessment and taxation system review.

“So that is ongoing,” Groves said. “I would anticipate that we may hear something when that review is done, but at this point we do not have a new evaluation date.”

She said the agency has added more than $55 million to the assessment rolls in Haliburton County this year. That is about 35 per cent of what MPAC hopes to pick up for the whole year.

“So we are adding that new assessment to your rolls and recognizing previous years as well,” she said. “Even though we’ve added $55 (million) to date this year, we’ve actually in fact added $111 million for this year plus the last couple years as well for structures that were completed in the last couple years.”

Councillor Cecil Ryall, the deputy mayor of Highlands East, said owners of newly built houses pay current prices for permits, materials, and labour. And then their property is valued according to the benchmark set almost a decade ago.

“How do they get their value that they paid?” Ryall said. “The cost of the build in 2024 dollars is more than the 2016 value of the property had it been built in 2016.”

“We time-adjust all of that information,” Groves said. “There are calculations done in the background that would estimate what that house would have been valued at as of Jan. 1, 2016.”

Earlier in her presentation to council, Groves said there are about 5.6 million homes in Ontario that are being tracked by MPAC. Coun. Bob Carter, the mayor of Minden Hills, wondered how many of that tally were built since 2016 and therefore have not been assessed using updated figures.

“All properties would have had an update as of Jan. 1, 2016,” she said. “We have updated the values on them. Whether we have physically stepped foot on that property or done an inspection on that property is a different thing.”

Carter said many people don’t realize how their property taxes are calculated. MPAC should be responsible to answer such questions, not municipal staff.

“We don’t have the resources to handle it,” Carter said.

Groves said her organization is willing to support residents and municipalities to answer questions.

Coun. Murray Fearrey, Dysart’s mayor, said there could have a property in his township that’s listed for sale for $4 million and sells for $3.7 million but is assessed at $700,000.

“When I get somebody that just built a new place and they’re assessed higher and they could only get $1 million for their place, how do I answer that question?” he said.

“Cottage country is a little bit of a different beast than your typical urban residential area,” Groves said. “Your sales really drive what those values are going to become the date we get that evaluation.”

“This is a bigger problem than I think you realize,” Fearrey said.

Gary Dyke, the county’s CAO, said the county calculates its revenue stream based on reassessments and apply it to the needs as expenditures.

“We were actually in a revenue deficit over the last eight years because of the length of time it’s taken the province to realize the fact we’re eight years behind in the assessed value of properties and it hasn’t taken into account the inflation that we’re paying for our services as well,” Dyke said. “It’s a balancing act.”

“To be honest, as a taxpayer I don’t understand tax rates,” Ryall said. “I don’t want to understand tax rates. I want to understand the number that’s on the bottom of my tax bill. That’s the only number that matters to me.”

The new assessments, whenever they happen, is going to have higher valuations, he said. That will mean people will have taxes significantly higher than what they’re accustomed to paying.

Ryall said a means is needed to pay such a large tax increase in increments over four years, as an example. Otherwise, ratepayers will be hit with a large increase at one time and not understand why the number at the bottom of their tax bill increased so drastically in one year.

Carter said people may end up waiting more than 10 years before the new assessments come about, given that no government would want to roll out such a change as the province nears an election year.

“If there’s a discrepancy in how much one house went up over the other, that’s where the confusion is going to be,” Carter said. “I think it will go beyond confusion and directly into chaos.”