If you think your property assessment isn’t right, stay on it and work at setting it right. That is the advice from the mayor of East Hawkesbury and its CAO, which comes after an Assessment Review Board (ARB) decision ruled in favour of a property owner, ordering MPAC to go back 19 years to check the assessment values it provided to the Township of East Hawkesbury.

But the Township of East Hawkesbury did make efforts to assist one of their residents when she came to them with a problem about a property assessment mix-up, says East Hawkesbury Mayor Robert Kirby.

She had been assessed and was paying taxes on two properties, when in fact, it was really one property – something which she only learned after finally visiting the Land Registry Office. The ARB decision says that Bleau went to the township office to straighten out the situation, and that although she was told someone would get back to her, no help was offered. It was only when she appealed to her MP for help, that she was told to contact MPAC about her property assessment.

Kirby said that the township did organize a meeting that he attended with the township’s new CAO, Luc Lalonde, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC)) and Marlene Bleau, the property owner with the assessment problem.

That meeting took place on August 28, 2018, according to CAO Luc Lalonde.

“At that meeting, they (MPAC) were dead-set on their decision,” Kirby said. He contends that MPAC made the mistake and now it falls back on the township. There is no accountability on the part of MPAC for its error, said Kirby, pointing out that MPAC did not even send a representative to the ARB hearing to defend its stance.

“I think it is disrespectful on their part,” Kirby said.

If MPAC has made a mistake and a taxpayer has overpaid taxes, “We’re the ones that will owe the money but we went by their (MPAC’s) numbers,” said Kirby, who says that of course the township should reimburse a taxpayer if there was an overpayment.

“This is an example to everyone,” Kirby said. He says property owners should be vigilant with their assessment notices and should file appeals if something doesn’t look right.

Likewise, East Hawkesbury CAO Luc Lalonde emphasized that property owners receive assessment notices on a regular basis.

“On this notice, you have all the information on how to contest your assessment. You deal directly with MPAC on this matter. The township cannot contest your evaluation for you,” Lalonde pointed out.

Lalonde said that he could not comment on the situation, or the contention that staff at East Hawkesbury did nothing to help Bleau when she went to the township office several times to ask for help with her property tax mix-up.

“We are all new staff at the township so I can’t comment on the discussions that Mrs. Bleau had with municipal staff prior. I was first aware of the situation in March 2018. I contacted MPAC immediately to investigate. I’ve been in contact via emails with MPAC and Mrs. Bleau to solve the situation since then,” Lalonde said, adding that when Bleau was unsatisfied with the revision she received, he organized a meeting between all parties.

“The township only approves the tax rate for all property categories. MPAC establishes the assessment for all properties, Lalonde said.

“Saying that Mrs Bleau will get a refund on tax at this time is a little early. It all depends on the revised assessment that MPAC will establish. If they removed the assessment valuation of one property and they increase the valuation on the other one, it will have no impact on the taxes to be paid,” Lalonde wrote in an email to The Review, saying he wanted to clarify what had been reported by The Review in an article about Bleau and the Assessment Review Board decision.

“After all this, I believe that present staff did an excellent job on this case when you think that it’s been going on since 1999 and we finally get a ruling within one year,” Lalonde said.