Buffalo Lake homeowners lose battle over property assessments

A group of Buffalo Lake homeowners have lost their battle over what they saw as unfair property tax increases.

A group of Buffalo Lake homeowners have lost their battle over what they saw as unfair property tax increases.

More than 40 property owners in the Bolin and Rochon Sands communities saw their property assessments soar this year, leading to a spike in property taxes — more than 50 per cent for at least one homeowner. Seven took their fight to the County of Stettler’s Local Assessment Review Board on Sept. 27.

In a decision released Wednesday, the board says it could find no error in the methodology of the assessor and assessments would not be changed.

Robert Kirk, who was among those who appealed his assessment, was disappointed with the decision but pleased homeowners had their opportunity to make their case.

“They appeared fair in their outlook,” he said of the assessment board, which was comprised of a councillor and two members of the community. “It seemed fair and above board.

“I don’t think we’ll take it further. At least we brought it to their attention.

“I have a feeling the tax assessments next year will be a little more fair. But we’ll wait and see.”

Kirk’s total tax bill — which includes school taxes and requisitions for housing, waste management and recreation — will jump to $4,673 from $3,354. That’s just under a 40 per cent increase.

Property owners had argued that assessments were over-valued because they were based on such a small sample of home sales. Since few properties change hands in the area, assessors had only two sales to compare.

Both of those went for high prices, which other property owners believe skewed their assessments.

Questions were also raised about why properties in nearby Buffalo View Estates did not see the same kind of assessment increases.

Under the Municipal Government Act, the assessment board was limited to drawing upon sales between July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2011.

“In the particular area in question (Rochon Sands and Bolin subdivisions), there have been several years between sales and two most recent sales indicated a significant increase in the market value of properties in that area,” says the county’s release.

It goes on to say different areas of the lake and other subdivisions can’t be used for market comparisons because they reflect different house sale markets.

The board found “no evidence that the property owners were treated unfairly or inequitably in relation to others within the market.”

Homeowners have the right to appeal the board’s decision to Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. The appeal must be based on a question of law or jurisdiction.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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