I thought I would share my situation with other Chestermere residents as I am pretty sure that there are others in the same position.
I moved to Chestermere in May of 2010 into a new home. Within a few months, I received my first tax bill and although I found the amount high, I was told by my next-door neighbours, that it was in the same range as what that they were paying.
As the City property tax assessments only included “Property Size” and it accurately described mine, I assumed that the assessed value of my property and subsequent city taxes were accurate.
When I received my tax assessment in March 2017, it included an insert from the City of Chestermere which identified a website where you could view your property details.
Once I accessed the website, I noted that my house details included a finished basement. I immediately contacted the assessment company and provided them with proof that the basement wasn’t finished.
My property assessment has since been modified reducing the value by over $33,000. As a result, I estimate that I overpaid the City of Chestermere $1,725 in property taxes since 2010 because of this error.
How this error came to be is a mystery for the current assessment company as they took over the responsibility for Chestermere in 2011. I couldn’t get any information for 2010 as the previous assessment company is no longer in operation..
Surprisingly, a review of my property file at the City only included the house blueprints and the developer’s permit request dating back to 2008.
My next step was to contact the City to request a refund for the overpaid taxes because of the error. I guess I misjudged how the City of Chestermere would respond to what I deemed a reasonable request.
I was told that that the city could only amend the current year assessment and 2017 taxes quoting an article in the Municipal Government Act.
After receiving expert advice on the matter, I presented the city with the legislative authorities in the in the Municipal Government Act (S347) allowing City Council to refund past year taxes.
As it was a decision that only City Council could make, I was asked to submit my case to Council in May.
Although I thought I gave compelling arguments to substantiate my request, at the subsequent June council meeting I learned that my request was denied.
I understand that City Council must make decisions that are in the best interests of all residents but I was expecting some degree of flexibility and fairness when coming to their decision.
I had been forewarned by the City Finance Director that council had never refunded residents for over paid past taxes, so I guess I was more surprised to hear some of the comments made by some of our elected officials than the outcome.
The council was mainly concerned that if they granted a refund, it would leave the door open to others coming forward with similar requests. One of the councillors voiced, it would be like “herding cats” and others chimed in that it would be an “administrative nightmare” to manage.
When you hear such comments, it certainly makes you wonder if they are already aware that there are many others in similar situations.
I hope that after you read this letter, that you will take a few minutes to review your property details on the above-mentioned city website to ensure that you are only paying taxes on what you own.