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It's "way too early to tell" how big the boost in Montreal Island's municipal evaluations will be in a new tax roll to take effect Jan. 1, 2011, Montreal city spokesperson Patricia Lowe said Tuesday.


The current roll values all buildings and land across the island at $195.7 billion.


Preliminary work began last summer on the upcoming three-year roll. To be unveiled next September, it will provide the basis for municipal taxes levied through the end of 2013 -- –from the western to eastern tips of the island.


Michel Benoit will be keeping an eagle eye on the process.


Last time around, in the 2007-10 roll covering 435,190 buildings, "big property owners had increases of about 20 per cent and small property owners had evaluation increases of more than 50 per cent," the former Montreal city councillor said.


Benoit is a 53-year-old homeowner --– and retired accountant –-- who estimated he's spent at least 450 hours since early November crunching the nitty-gritty numbers.


He said he unearthed "a pronounced shift in the municipal tax burden to the shoulders of small property-owners from big property owners."


The apparent disparities for the current roll were indeed striking:


* The residential sector was hit with an evaluation increase of 47.4 per cent.


* But valuations for non-residential buildings rose a much lesser 23.7 per cent.


* The hotel business got the biggest break – with overall assessed values up just 14.1 per cent. Industrial buildings went up 16.8 per cent, and office buildings were up 21.1 per cent.


* In sharp contrast, the average Island-wide increase for single-family homes was 43.5 per cent --– for example, 39.1 per cent in Dollard des Ormeaux and 66.1 per cent in Montreal East.


Will this shift of the relative tax burden from big real-estate players to small owners continue through to the end of 2013, or will it be stopped or perhaps even reversed?


"That’s impossible to say," Lowe responded, "because none of the values in any category will be firmly pinned down until next summer."


"Resale values make up a large part of the assessment process," she added, "and the resale value of single-family homes went up a lot more than hotels and other commercial buildings. The process reflects the reality of the market."


The overall size of the assessment increase, variations between types of properties and the relative impact in particular neighbourhoods?


"That's impossible to predict at this time," Lowe responded, "because of the nature of the process."


The roll will cover all 14 suburbs on the island along with 19-borough Montreal.


"Just like police and fire protection," Lowe said, evaluation is "one of the agglomeration services provided by Montreal across the island," conducted by about 70 inspectors, assessors and professional staff in the evaluation section of Montreal's finance department.


Detailed questionnaires were distributed in July to owners of commercial buildings, "taking into account vacancy rates, building conditions and other factors."


Particularly for residential properties, "not all of the figures for property sales are in yet for the month of December," Lowe said.


Prices paid exert a big influence on assessments, in turn helping set the tax tally for neighbouring owners.


Other factors taken into account include the value of construction and renovation permits.


(Courtesy of The Montreal Gazette)

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