Presentation by Servitech Taxpayers frustrated after meeting

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Lionel Tessier (t.r AB)

MANSFIELD – At the request of the municipality, representatives from the appraisal company Servitech, Stéphane Roy and Jean Beaudet, were present at a meeting at Ecole Secondaire Sieur de Coulonge, April 14, to explain the sudden and significant increases in the
evaluations of some properties and

Lionel Tessier (t.r AB)

MANSFIELD – At the request of the municipality, representatives from the appraisal company Servitech, Stéphane Roy and Jean Beaudet, were present at a meeting at Ecole Secondaire Sieur de Coulonge, April 14, to explain the sudden and significant increases in the
evaluations of some properties and
hikes in municipal tax bills, especially for
those along the Ottawa River. Over 100
taxpayers attended.
Roy explained his company had
carried out a “balancing” of property assessments so listed property values reflect the actual market price (properties that were sold in 2012-2013). He gave examples of 10 identical cottages: if three of these cottages sold for $100,000, the other 7 would be valued at $100,000. This assessment method takes into account other sales, but also a dwelling’s condition, location, the neighbourhood, etc.
The equilibration approach aims to eliminate differences between the value recorded on a building’s assessment and the actual (market) value of all properties. Roy said that because of the market, the value of homes that are not on the water’s edge have increased by 12% on average, cottages on the water’s edge by 21% on average, and cottages between Davidson and Waltham increased by 27% on
average (some property owners witnessed value increases of 50-75%).
In addition, Roy explained that because of “baby boomers” who are willing to pay high prices for properties in the country, especially those on the water’s edge, the value of cottage properties tend to increase rapidly.
Many unanswered questions
During the question period that followed Roy’s presentation, citizens’ frustrations became apparent for several reasons. The fact that Roy spoke mainly French, while at least 50% of the citizens present were English speaking, upset many.
Roy could not specify how many
properties were sold during the referenced period. “Maybe 50, maybe 100,” he said. Near the end of the meeting, Roy gave examples of properties in Mansfield that he based his evaluations on since
equilibration assessments are based on the value of similar properties. However, Roy admitted that if few properties are sold within a municipality, equilibration becomes “a dangerous process.”
Roy said taxpayers had until April 15 to try to negotiate an agreement with Servitech.
Because the date was the next day, he recommended citizens obtain a form from the MRC to make a formal request for review of their assessments.
Roy also stated that properties sold at inflated prices are not considered in the equilibration approach; but, he added that these high prices become the norm if several properties are sold at a price higher than the average market price, which seemed contradictory to many people.
Some citizens asked why the value of their property had not changed in 2012, but was increased by 60% in 2015; Roy was unable to provide an answer. One woman added that her evaluation had increased even though there was no visit from an appraiser in over ten years
(evaluators must visit each property every nine years, at least).
The public’s reaction to Roy’s
presentation was almost unanimous: “We are frustrated because we didn’t get any answers. We don’t know what their evaluations were based on. They presented us with a series of numbers, without explaining why evaluations have increased this much. The answers were too vague to understand exactly what they meant.”
Many also questioned the professionalism of Servitech. After the meeting, one participant summed up the general
feeling: “I had the impression of watching an amateur presentation. For example, when a professional appraiser came to do an evaluation of my property he gave me a list (with photos) of comparable properties on which he based his assessment; this process cost me $300, by the way.  If he had refused to provide me with comparisons, as Servitech did, I simply wouldn’t have paid him. I think that’s what the MRC should do with Servitech until they
can prove they are making realistic
assessments.”
In a telephone interview with Roy, April 17, he attempted to specify a
number of details for the Journal. To begin, he said there had been 202 real estate transactions in Mansfield between
2012-2013, which were used to establish the role. He added that citizens of Mansfield can contact Servitech (www.servitech.qc.ca or 418-653-1850 by indicating their registration number) until May 1 to discuss their evaluations before filing a formal application with the MRC Pontiac. He also stated that, in the event of a formal review (after May 1), the cost incurred by the company will be
reimbursed, by the hour, by either the municipality or the MRC.
Roy recommended that citizens who wish to contest their evaluations obtain their property’s file to verify if the data entered is correct (available at the
municipality or MRC).
In the case of a formal request for review, the company reviews the file of each property on an individual basis in order to reach an agreement with the owner. If no agreement is reached, the owner may submit an application for review to an administrative tribunal.