Letters to the Editor

Surprise bills from back-taxing can be devastating, says Foxtrap landowner

Whether fair, right or wrong, the council of CBS pushes forward with a ‘practice’ to back-tax people on land not previously listed on the municipal assessment roll. The ‘practice’ also includes back gardens that are part of the property assessed, whether sub-dividable or not. This reality was and is endorsed by Municipal Affairs, albeit not as a ‘policy.’
At a council meeting in February 2019, then Deputy Mayor Richard Murphy said, “Whether or not this is a fair way of doing it or whether or not it’s right or wrong is up for discussion. The Town’s practice, once the owner is identified and reached, is to tax the parcel of land for the previous five years.”
Only one person was being back-taxed at that time, but a ‘policy’ was anticipated.
Then councillor Darrin Bent, now mayor, said he voted against it, “because I simply don’t agree with the back taxing of people for six years for land that is not on the roll, that the Town wasn’t aware of and had not previously claimed taxes (on).”
Bent added, “The town has not been doing anything improper, according to the Department of Municipal Affairs, in the way it levies back taxes on land.”
But just because we’re allowed to do it, doesn’t mean we should do it, he argued.
Bent pointed out the value of taxes on unregistered land is not calculated in the Town’s annual budget. “So, when it does come on the roll…. quite frankly it’s a bit of a windfall,” he said. “So, I think we need to review this in mind. Well, this unprecedented tax need not be an issue today; shame on those who voted for it.”
Premier Andrew Furey, Justice Minister John Hogan, Municipal Affairs Minister John Haggie, and his predecessor, Krista-Lynn Howell, have no desire to deal directly with the matter. My correspondence to Mrs. Howell in September 2022 was returned to me in March 2023, even though she responded to it in November 2022.
Then she responded on behalf of Premier Furey in May 2023, and Mr. Haggie took over her role as minister in June 2023. So, the residents of CBS are left to handle this issue legally or at the election polls. This is the song and dance coming from the Confederation Building.
Former Minister Howell said on February 2, 2022, “Regionalization will roll out as soon as possible.” According to her, 25 regions were set to be established in 2022, with the final implementation expected in late 2024. Back-taxing land may have made regionalization appealing and an asset in making communities sustainable, even to her.
For the number of CBS residents already back-taxed, this is a bitter pill to swallow, whether it be a back-tax on a parcel of land or the land behind their homes. Getting an initial tax bill for five, ten, twenty thousand or more dollars, in addition to the yearly residential property tax, is devastating. Add to this being threatened with legal action of non-payment. Remember, current and five years back; this applies to all property deemed to be previously unassessed; and eventually, all the town will be back-taxed if this ‘practice’ is not scrapped.
It is my opinion that the back-taxing of property cannot be legally justified, and that the council of CBS should act in good faith and stop this ‘practice.’ Because the Department of Municipal Affairs permitted its use in CBS and after that continued to approve it yearly as tax revenue for the town, it should be held accountable; and being the governing body responsible for adherence to the Municipalities Act, it should be obligated to provide full reimbursement to those affected ty the tax. Anything short of this would be an insult to CBS residents and would bring disgrace upon the provincial legislature if legally challenged.
This property tax grab is unfair and wrong, to say the least. The council’s back-tax ‘practice’ has never been made a ‘policy’ because it does not conform to the municipal legislation. Maybe Mr. Barry Petten, MHA for Conception Bay South, would now like to comment publicly on this ‘practice,’ for it is an issue that needs to be addressed on behalf of all residents of CBS.
It’s time for serious action.
David Cable
Peachy Town Road,
Foxtrap, CBS

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