Regional Boards of Revision for Property Evaluations
Whereas mill rates are set, based upon property valuations, to generate specific tax revenues; and
Whereas appeals for property valuations are heard by regional boards of revision; and
Whereas there are currently no standardized knowledge or training requirements for regional board of revision review panel participants; and
Whereas the varied methodologies and understandings of different review panel participants results in inconsistent tax values and decision making for municipalities around the province;
Therefore be it resolved that the SUMA advocate the Ministry of Government Relations:
- create regional boards of revision with mandatory training/knowledge levels that can be populated by private or public-sector participants;
- establish minimum education standards for all members of the boards of revision, with advanced training required for the secretary and chair;
- create a Provincial Board of Revision with members who have the necessary level of training and expertise to handle complex commercial and industrial appeals;
- ensure boards of revision are held accountable to meet legislated timelines for decisions;
- establish a provincial fee schedule to levy costs for withdrawals, with those costs graduated to reflect time remaining prior to the hearing date; and
- communicate that the Ministry of Government Relations has a very solid set of board of revision education tools on their website that are available to local officials.
- Municipalities already have the ability to create district boards of revision as set out in sections 222 of The Municipalities Act and 194 of The Cities Act. This allows municipalities to take advantage of regional expertise that may not be available at the local level.
- The ministry has a solid training package of resource guides and recorded webinars for members of boards of revision available at Saskatchewan.ca. Multiple reminders are also made early to municipalities to raise awareness of this material.
- The ministry notes a couple of issues with overseeing the creation of formalized regional boards of revision with mandatory training. For example:
- The proposed changes would require legislative amendments.
- Smaller municipalities may find it cost-prohibitive to support a regional board of revision, especially in years when no assessment appeals are received. This could also create challenges in finding members.
- There are operational challenges and expenses that the province and municipalities would have to consider. Decisions would have to be made about who would deliver this regional training, what it would entail, and who would pay for it. Currently, municipalities would pay for any customized training sessions for their volunteer board of revision members at the local level.
- Mandatory training sets a precedent that does not currently exist. For example, the province does not set mandatory training or standards for administrators. This is left up to the municipal associations.
- A Provincial Board of Revision would create a conflict of interest with the Saskatchewan Municipal Board (SMB). If there is an appeal at the provincial board level, it would be heard by the SMB, and you cannot have one provincial board hear appeals from another provincial board.
- Boards of revision have the ability to request extensions if they are unable to complete their duties within the legislated timeline. Boards are typically meeting their deadline, with a handful of extensions granted as seen in the chart below:
Reasons Given by Municipalities Requesting Extensions of Time Number of Extensions Given in 2017 Accommodating the schedules of Board Members 3 Delayed Scheduling in anticipation of Saskatchewan Assessment Management Agency (SAMA) obtaining agreements to adjust from appellants 10 Scheduling to accomodate SAMA's attendance hearing 6 Inexperienced secretary who was unaware of duties and deadlines 3 Municipality needed to reappoint board or board members due to resignations or conflict of interest 2 Board unable to complete duties due to large number of appeals or complexity of appeals 4 Total 28
- Introducing fees to cover withdrawal costs of an assessment appeal would be counter-productive and difficult to administer. The appeal system is designed to encourage voluntary resolution, and withdrawal fees could discourage appellants from withdrawing. This may result in the appeal process continuing to run. This adds costs to SAMA, the appellant, and the board of revision for the hearing, as well as the preparation and distribution of the decision. This could potentially result in another round of appeal to the SMB.