'I wish the county took the land back': Tax trouble for annexed Edmontonians
EDMONTON -- Some residents in the newly annexed parts of south Edmonton say their property taxes have skyrocketed, despite efforts made during the negotiations between the City of Edmonton and Leduc County to keep taxes relatively stable.
The annexation agreement lays out the transfer of roughly 20,000 acres from the county to the city as of Jan. 1, 2019. It states residents will pay whichever tax rate is lower between the City of Edmonton and Leduc County for the next 50 years.
“That’s not resulting in what the people in the county feel was the covenant that was agreed to,” Ward 9 City Coun. Tim Cartmell told CTV News Edmonton, “which is, our taxes won’t go up if our lives don’t change.”
However, the agreement does not put restrictions on the assessed value of properties, and now some land owners have seen large increases to the value of their property.
“When that distils to the bottom line, [it] is resulting in significantly dramatically higher property tax bills for some.” Cartmell said.
That is the situation 82-year-old farmer and honey producer Mario Bevilacqua is in.
He owns 26 acres of land just South of 41 Avenue SW, Edmonton’s southern border until the annexation. Documents provided to CTV News Edmonton show Leduc County assessed Bevilacqua’s property at $585,700 in 2018, while City of Edmonton assessors valued the land at $881,500 in 2020 — an increase of $295,800.
Even paying the County’s lower tax rate, Bevilacqua paid nearly $1,400 more in 2020 property taxes than in 2018.
“I said that’s bologna,” Bevilacqua told CTV News Edmonton. “Pay the tax, pay this, pay that... You gonna give up the farm, that’s it.”
He says he called the city’s Assessment and Taxation department to complain, but was told the value of his property was accurate.
“I feel I am nobody. I feel just... I wish the County took the land back.” Bevilacqua said.
COUNCIL SEEKING ANSWERS
Wednesday, City Council passed a motion asking both City staff and Municipal Affairs to look into the issue.
Anton Szabo, Director of Integrated Business and Customer Solutions in the City of Edmonton’s Assessment and Taxation Branch told CTV News Edmonton he’s confident assessments of annexed properties were done correctly.
“Some property owners are right on 41st Avenue, with development knocking on the door right across the way,” Szabo said, “...we have to take that into consideration when we’re doing our assessment valuation.”
All property owners can appeal their assessments if they think they’re incorrect. They can call the city, and if the issue is not resolved, it can be taken to the Assessment Review Board before the date listed on the property assessment.
PROPERTY ASSESSMENTS PROVINCIALLY REGULATED
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs regulates how property assessments are done in Alberta. Press Secretary Timothy Gerwing sent a statement to CTV News Edmonton that said, in part: “If a portion of the property is used for farming, the portion used for farming is assessed using non-market values. This is through a process that is regulated.”
However, that does not mean Bevilacqua’s entire 26-acre property, and others like it are immune to market forces.
According to Anton Szabo, “... for farm properties with homesteads, provincial legislation requires that three acres of the total site be assessed at market value.”
Coun. Cartmell has been hearing about the issue for months; he’s looking forward to the results of the work his motion asked for.
“There is a discrepancy here, and we’re not getting the result that the covenant that we made with the residents of the county suggested we should get. So we need to find out why.”