N.B. announces independent review of property assessments

As New Brunswick remains embroiled in a property tax scandal, the provincial government says it's getting out of the property assessment business.

Premier Brian Gallant announced Monday that his government will introduce legislation to create an independent agency that will oversee property assessment.

Gallant also said that an independent review of all policies and procedures related to assessment processes for the past seven years will be launched.

The news comes just days after a whistleblower alleged more than 2,000 property owners have been given improper and inflated tax bills.

"There is clearly a problem and we are going to fix it," said Gallant. "It is important for all New Brunswickers to be confident in the quality, accuracy and transparency of the property tax assessment process."

Service New Brunswick Minister Ed Doherty said Monday that a preliminary review has found that an "arbitrary formula" was used to help estimate property values in both 2011 and 2017.

The formula, the province said, was developed to lower the estimated increase for a number of properties that would not be able to undergo the full quality control procedures prior to the billing cycle.

"There was clearly a failure of process and communication within Service New Brunswick," said Gallant, "and that is why we will be having an independent review to ensure we learn exactly what happened and it can be corrected in the setup of the new independent assessment agency."

"Although Service New Brunswick officials may have had good intentions in applying these formulas, the appropriateness of these formulas must be questioned and reviewed."

As the review is underway, the province said SNB staff will be inspecting all of these properties again and issuing revised bills to all affected property owners.

The independent review will be overseen by Justice Joseph T. Robertson, a former judge of the Federal Appeal Court and a former justice of the Court of Appeal of New Brunswick.

Gallant said there is no deadline for New Brunswickers to report errors and for those errors to be corrected.

But there is a legislative deadline of 30 days for property owners to submit a request for review of their assessment where no error has been made.

The province said it will continue to accept requests for review until Aug. 1.