Big changes to assessed home values in Labrador West could mean big changes to the town’s budget, but it’s too early to say what homeowners are in for.
The home value assessments, released this week by the Municipal Assessment Agency, show homes in the area could face a 40 to 50 per cent decrease in their overall value. It’s tough news for homeowners, as well as the town, which relies on home values to set mill rates to determine tax rates in the town.
The Labrador West area as a whole saw the largest fluctuation in home values in the most recent round of assessments, with the rest of the province seeing more or less stable home values.
Wabush Mayor Ron Barron says the town is still working through its budget for the coming year, but homeowners should expect some change to how much tax they’ll have to pay next year.
“What that mill rate will be, I can’t tell you just yet because we don’t know,” said Barron.
“At the end of the day, we’re only going to take what we need. We’re not trying to gouge anybody. You’ll see decreases in some taxation and you’ll see some increases in others.”
Currently, the residential mill rate in Wabush is 4.9, but Barron recalls a time near the turn of the millennium when the mill rate was as high as 17. The commercial mill rate is 19, and could also see a jump.
Barron says Wabush is seeing the bust side of a previous boom. Years ago, houses in Wabush were regularly selling for more than $300,000, largely driven by the surrounding mining industry. With the downturn of Wabush Mines, housing prices in the area are dropping.
“In those times, we were referred to as Little Fort McMurray, with the robust growth here,” said Barron.
“We had upwards of 280 homes built. For a little community, that’s major growth.”
Now, the red-hot economy has cooled off, though there are signs that a Wabush Mines restart could be on the horizon, which could help jumpstart things once again.
Barron says he wishes the municipal assessments took place more often, so people had a more up-to-date understanding of their home’s value, rather than a surprise every three years.
“That has to change for a more real-time reflection of what’s happening in the area,” said Barron.
“Taxes are a necessary part of life. I don’t want to pay taxes, like everyone else. But your community has to run. It’s a pain for staff here to be changing and recalculating, trying to work things out.”
Barron says public meetings about the budget will be scheduled in the coming weeks to explain the situation and get residents’ input on the coming budget.
Municipal budgets across the province are due to be unveiled in early December.