When it was revealed in January that hundreds of parcels of land in the County of St. Paul were under scrutiny as to whether or not they should in fact be assessed as agriculture use, Reeve Steve Upham admits his pointing the finger at the provincial government as the reason for the exercise requires some clarification on his part.
"I'd like to make it clear that changes weren't due to the re-write of the MGA (Municipal Government Act) necessarily, just to provincial assessment regulations that the county hadn't been adhering to," Upham explained last week.
Upham said off-loading the responsibility onto the province for the county's move was his mistake. While the government is the "ultimate judiciary", it was the county's decision to undertake the action in order to bring property assessment in line with provincial regulations, Upham said.
The county announced last month that 689 parcels of land in the county currently assessed as agriculture had been identified by county's contracted assessor, Accurate Assessment Group, as questionable in regards to their actual use. Since then, owners of the property in question have received a letter from the county and an accompanying survey requiring them to explain the land's use. If it is identified as farm, they are required to explain the type of farm production occurring on the land, provide a breakdown of agricultural products produced and their sale value, and whether or not the land is leased.
Completed surveys will be reviewed by the assessor and if it is deemed the property should be re-inspected for assessment purposes, that will be carried out this year. Any changes to assessment will be made for the 2021 taxation year. Land that is reassessed as recreational based on market value will mean an increased tax rate for the owner.
"We have asked that the surveys be returned to the county by the end of February 2020," CAO Sheila Kitz said. "We have had several landowners contact us to clarify the process. I have not heard of any real concerns other than filling out the form."
Kitz said there will only be an assessment change if the property is not being used for agricultural purposes.