Hal­i­fax isn’t check­ing the num­bers

Au­di­tor gen­eral says city must con­firm ac­cu­racy of data used in cal­cu­lat­ing prop­erty taxes

StarMetro Halifax - - HALIFAX - ZANE WOOD­FORD Zane Wood­ford STARMETRO HAL­I­FAX THES­TAR.COM/HAL­I­FAX

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity needs to do a bet­ter job ver­i­fy­ing the in­for­ma­tion it uses to cal­cu­late how much prop­erty tax is paid by four large com­mer­cial prop­erty own­ers — tax ac­counts that add up to more than $7 mil­lion an­nu­ally.

That’s one of the find­ings from the mu­nic­i­pal au­di­tor gen­eral’s re­port into prop­erty tax man­age­ment, re­leased on Wednes­day in a pre­sen­ta­tion to coun­cil’s au­dit and fi­nance stand­ing com­mit­tee.

Au­di­tor gen­eral Evan­ge­line Col­man-sadd told the com­mit­tee that her of­fice de­cided to au­dit prop­erty tax man­age­ment be­cause al­most 80 per cent Hal­i­fax’s rev­enue comes from prop­erty tax.

Though the au­dit found that, gen­er­ally, Hal­i­fax “ef­fec­tively” man­ages its prop­erty tax ac­tiv­i­ties, Col­man-sadd’s of­fice made five rec­om­men­da­tions for im­prove­ment, all ac­cepted by man­age­ment.

The first is that fi­nance staff should con­firm the “ac­cu­racy of data used in cal­cu­lat­ing taxes payable un­der tax agree­ments be­fore is­su­ing tax bills.”

Hal­i­fax en­ters into tax Side­walks don’t stretch the full length of Her­ring Cove Rd., but the city wants the long and wind­ing road to Spry­field to be more pedes­trian friendly.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity will con­sult the pub­lic on Thurs­day night at the Cap­tain Wil­liam Spry Com­mu­nity Cen­tre on a new plan for a roughly six-kilo­me­tre stretch of Her­ring Cove Rd. from the Ar­m­dale Ro­tary to Mcin­tosh Run trail.

“It’s go­ing to be a long-term func­tional plan, so as paving projects come up over the com­ing years, in­stead of putting back what’s there, we’d look to the func­tional plan and make those changes,” Though the au­dit found that, gen­er­ally, Hal­i­fax “ef­fec­tively” man­ages its prop­erty tax ac­tiv­i­ties, Col­man-sadd’s of­fice made five rec­om­men­da­tions.

agree­ments with some ma­jor com­mer­cial or in­dus­trial prop­erty own­ers, with an­nual taxes payable based on a for­mula in the agree­ment.

For in­stance, the Hal­i­fax In­ter­na­tional Air­port Au­thor­ity — one of the four un­ver­i­fied ac­counts — pays tax based on a for­mula that adds 22 cents per pas­sen­ger to a base amount ad­justed ac­cord­ing to the con­sumer price in­dex. There are cur­rently eight such agree­ments, with vary­ing for­mu­las.

The au­dit found in four of those cases, Hal­i­fax wasn’t ver­i­fy­ing the ac­cu­racy of the in­for­ma­tion, given to the city Her­ring Cove Road in Spry­field is due for a re­design and the mu­nic­i­pal­ity is ask­ing for cit­i­zens’ in­put.

mu­nic­i­pal pro­gram en­gi­neer Har­ri­son Mc­grath ex­plained.

The plan could even­tu­ally in­clude bike and bus lanes, as well as more pedes­trian in­fra­struc­ture, but Mc­grath said the Thurs­day meet­ing will fo­cus on what is work­ing and what isn’t work­ing right now.

“We’re just look­ing for feed­back and in­put from the com­mu­nity, and then, in WWW.THES­TAR.COM

by the prop­erty own­ers, used to cal­cu­late the taxes.

Col­man-sadd said her of­fice found no ev­i­dence that any of the four prop­erty own­ers was un­der or over­pay­ing, but, she said, “there’s a risk that it’s just wrong.”

“It’s a bet­ter prac­tice to ver­ify the in­for­ma­tion, as op­posed to just re­ly­ing on some­body to sub­mit in­for­ma­tion that is ac­cu­rate and cor­rect.”

Hal­i­fax wants a more pedes­trian-friendly Her­ring Cove Rd.

phase two, we would use that in­put to speak to the func­tional plan,” he said.

The re­design will rely on the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s In­te­grated Mo­bil­ity Plan, its am­bi­tious (though cur­rently un­der­funded) trans­porta­tion plan, to in­form the changes on the street.

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