Alleyn-et-Cawood challenges evaluation process

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Alleyn-et-Cawood challenges property assessment process

Bonnie James

Local Journalism Initiative

ALLEYN-ET-CAWOOD: The Municipality of Alleyn-et-Cawood along with the Evaluation Task Force put on a town hall meeting in Danford Lake on June 22 to explain the property assessment process, provide an update from the task force, and answer residents’ questions.

The community was rocked by a notice sent with the municipal property tax bills in February indicating a comparative factor of 3.7 for 2024, which could increase property values by 370%, resulting in a significant increase in taxes.

The comparative factor expresses in units the relationship between the sale price of a property and its assessment roll value. When sales prices exceed the assessed value, the comparative factor is greater than 1. For instance, if your property is valued at $100,000 and the comparative factor is set at 1.10, the standardized value, the property’s expected market price at the beginning of the year, becomes $110,000 ($100,000 × 1.10).

The dramatic increase in the comparative factor in Alleyn-et-Cawood was caused by the sale of a number of vacant lots that in some cases sold for more than triple their assessed value, driving the comparative factor up for the entire municipality. The problem was exacerbated by minimal residential sales, which have a lower comparative factor. Alleyn-et-Cawood Director General Isabelle Cardinal said that one of the problems is that the comparative factor is generalized rather than being categorized by the property type: vacant lots, forestry lots, cottages, or residences, so differences in value based on lot type are not taken into consideration.

Mayor Carl Mayer opened the meeting and welcomed residents, along with Councillors Sidney Squitti and Guy Bergeron. “We are small, but we are mighty. I have confidence that by working together, we can affect change.” said Squitti.

MRC Warden Jane Toller sent a video message of support; she was absent to attend the opening of the Rapides-des-Joachims splash pad. Toller said that more information about the new property values would be available on September 15 and that the Council of Mayors had adopted a resolution in support of Alleyn-et-Cawood’s requests to the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

MNA André Fortin also sent a video message of support, but it wasn’t played due to technical difficulties. He said that he has already spoken to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Andrée Laforest, about the issue.

DG Cardinal and Yann Baillargeon, a resident and CPA, gave a presentation explaining the property assessment process. They started by explaining the function of the assessment roll, a public document containing a summary of the inventory of properties located on a municipality’s territory. The roll is used by municipalities and school boards in the calculation of taxes and must be updated every three years. The roll is prepared by an evaluator and submitted to the municipal clerk for certification.

Cardinal and Baillargeon went on to explain the median proportion, comparative factor, and standardized value, data intended to compare assessed values to actual sale prices. The median proportion indicates in percentage the difference between a property’s assessed value and its expected current market value, at the beginning of a year.

Cardinal explained some of the ways this data is used during each year of the roll including in calculations relating to school taxes, business tax rates, non-taxable values for churches, municipal shares to the MRC, financing of the Sûreté du Quebec (SQ), road maintenance contributions, duties on real estate transfers, and values of parks, playgrounds, and natural areas.

The task force proposes that in years two and three of the triennial roll, the comparative factor should not be used to calculate municipal shares or taxes. They also propose that the comparative factor should only be used to monitor the real estate market and should not be used for anything impacting costs to the municipality such as calculating MRC shares, SQ contributions, and school taxes.

Cardinal and Baillargeon explained the process for requesting a review of your property evaluation.

Cardinal concluded by clarifying that the municipal tax rate and assessment rate are distinct, with the tax rate being set by municipal council based on the municipality’s expenses, revenues, and total assessment. She also said that council will adjust the tax rate according to the new assessment roll and promised that property taxes will not be doubled or tripled.

Task force members Julie Vaux and Angela Giroux (Chair) gave an update on their work. The task force consists of elected officials, municipal administrators, and ratepayers. It was created following a request made by residents at the council meeting in May and the first meeting was held on May 20 with a mandate of reducing the 2024 comparative factor of 3.7, challenging the Ministry of Municipal Affairs on the relevance of the comparative factor, and requesting an update to the evaluation process.

The task force created a petition to rally residents affected by the anticipated 370% increase in evaluations and to build awareness about the issue. Volunteers, Mayor Mayer, and councillors collected more than 300 signatures by going door-to-door over 11 days. The petition was presented at the June council meeting.

A second petition requesting the provincial government to review the 3.7 comparative factor for Alleyn-et-Cawood and to review the triennel roll process was created and sent to André Fortin to be registered with the National Assembly and collect signatures provincewide. The task force hopes to collect thousands of signatures over the summer to be presented to the Assembly by Fortin in September. The petition is available here: https://www.assnat.qc.ca/en/exprimez-votre-opinion/petition/Petition-10859.

Going forward, the task force plans to focus on getting the word out via local and social media and reaching out to other municipalities and the MRC for support. They also plan to organize more events.

The presentations were followed by a public question period with a number of residents asking questions and commenting on the issue. Joan Long asked why Minister Laforest won’t meet with the municipal council. Julie Vaux, task force communications representative, answered that she believes Laforest will meet with council once she receives the letter from the task force and the signed petition.

Joseph Squitti called for a series of town hall meetings to present the issue throughout the MRC, similar to the EFW meetings that were held this spring. He also suggested a steering committee be formed at the MRC to address the issue.

The town hall meeting concluded with an ice cream social featuring ice cream from La Cigale.