Rain Longson’s ’70s-era Scottsdale home hasn’t changed much since she bought it in the early 2000s: it still has shag carpet downstairs and a detached carport.
So when she received her property tax notice and found out the $300,000 increase in her property’s assessment had cost her more than $1,000 extra in tax, she was in shock.
“Something like that is not easy to get through,” Longson said.
“I’m finishing a [graphic design] contract … That’s going to take up all the money from the contact to pay it off.”
Last year, Longson’s property tax notice was more than $1,300. This year, it was just over $2,600.
Longson posted in the North Delta Community Corner Facebook group about her tax increase because she “wanted to see if anybody else was getting ridiculous tax rates.”
The response was immediate, with many other residents commenting on how their taxes had changed since last year.
Some, like Rain Longson, received property tax notices that were significantly higher than last year. Others had more modest increases, around 10 per cent. Still others were paying lower taxes than the year before, even though they said their property assessement had gone up.
“Some people are paying less now,” Longson said. “Some people are paying hundreds more, thousands more.
“I can’t picture rhyme or reason why.”
The reason, Delta taxation manager Nancy Hudson said, rests with the overall increase in B.C. Assessment’s property value appraisals.
This year, property values in Delta rose by an average of 42 per cent — the highest of any region in the Lower Mainland. The second highest was White Rock, which saw an 38 per cent increase. Last year, Delta experienced a 12 per cent increase in property value.
This increase was even more significant in North Delta: around 46 per cent, Hudson said. Ladner saw increases that were slightly less than the average, while Tsawwassen saw increases that were slightly more.
Property assessment values largely correspond with market values, which are based on characteristics a potential home buyer would consider. These include the size and layout of the home, as well as the location of the property.
For North Delta, location is key.
“If you look at North Delta, it’s a very family-oriented city,” North Delta realtor Randy Mann said. “A lot of people are seeing the value of it; they’re simply looking more at the community aspect of it.”
So as more people look towards North Delta to buy, housing prices skyrocket. It’s a simple case of supply and demand, Mann said, but one that cost many North Delta homeowners.
According to Hudson, these increases explain why Delta taxes as a whole were higher than the year before. But owners may see their tax payment increase or decrease depending on how their value assessment stacked up against the average increase.
No matter what the Delta tax rate is, “you would still see a difference in how people are taxed because the assessments are different for each person,” Hudson said.
Owners can appeal their assessment when they receive B.C. Assessment’s first notice in January. However, this is only available until February; by the time March rolls around, B.C. Assessment has calculated the final appraisals for properties and sends those out to the municipalities.
Those March assessments are what the Corporation of Delta uses to figure out each resident’s property tax, but the actual tax rate is decided long before, when the Corporation creates its financial plan.
“During the financial plan process, we have no idea what assessments are going to do, and that’s something we have no control over,” Hudson said.
While drafting the financial plan, Corporation staff look at the programs and services council wants to implement, and then what grants, user fees and other revenue options Delta has to pay for them.
The balance is what taxes need to cover, which this year resulted in a 2.75 per cent increase in tax rates.
Not everyone will see that increase reflected in their taxes: if their property value has increased more than the average, they will have a tax increase that is higher than what council approved. If their property value increased less than the average, their tax increase will be lower.
Regardless of the number on their tax notice, everyone pays the same tax rate, which can be broken down into two categories: municipal tax levies and other tax levies.
The Corporation of Delta does not have any say in the rate changes for other tax levies.
Across the board, those levies’ rates actually decreased: 23 per cent for provincial schools, a 19 per cent for the Greater Vancouver Regional District, 23 per cent for TransLink and 20 per cent for the B.C. Assessment Authority.
For North Delta and Annacis Island, the residential property tax rate is slightly higher than Ladner and South Delta because of the Sungod expansion.
Ladner and South Delta do not have this included in their tax rate. Both have had expansions to recreation centres in the past, and that increase was included in their tax rates during the time it was going on.
In total, North Deltans pay a tax rate of 3.8338 for every $1,000 of assessed value. In comparasion, Surrey residents pay 3.45553 for every $1,000 of assessed value. In Richmond, that number is 3.00791 per $1,000. The total tax amount is calculated by multiplying the tax rate by the assessed value of the property, and then dividing the result by 1,000.