PROPERTY ASSESSMENT APPEAL BOARD
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ASSESSMENT APPEAL BOARD
1997 ANNUAL REPORT

 

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
BOARD MEMBERS
BOARD MEETINGS AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
APPEAL STATISTICS
STATED CASES AND JUDICIAL REVIEWS
CONSULTATIONS
FINANCIAL CONSIDERATIONS
SUMMARY

List of Appendices

Appendix 1 List of OIC Appointments and Term
Appendix 2 Staff Organization Chart
Appendix 3 Status Report A - (Appeals for All Assessment Years)
Appendix 4 Status Report B - (1997 Appeals by Status and Region at December 31, 1997)
Appendix 5 Status Report C - (Backlog by Region and Assessed Value at December 31, 1997)
Appendix 6 Status Report D - (Backlog by Classification and Assessed Value at December 31, 1997)
Appendix 7 Status Report E - (Backlog by Year and Status at December 31, 1997)
Appendix 8 Status Report F - (Unscheduled Backlog by Year and Appellant Type)
Appendix 9 Results Report A - (Change in Outstanding Appeals)
Appendix 10 Results Report B - (Comparative Schedule of Results)
Appendix 11 Results Report C - (Stated Cases)
Appendix 12 Expenditure Report A - (Analysis of Expenditures and Outputs)
Appendix 13 Expenditure Report B - (Breakdown of Members’ 1997 Per Diems)

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INTRODUCTION

The Assessment Appeal Board is established pursuant to the Assessment Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, Chapter 20, Part V. The Board is responsible for registration, administration, scheduling and hearing of appeals filed from the decisions of the Courts of Revision. The Board also has responsibility for hearing appeals pursuant to the Forest Land Reserve Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 158.

The Board is composed of the Chair/CEO, one Vice Chair and, currently, 20 part time Members; historically, the average term of appointment has been two years. The primary function of Members is to conduct hearings and render decisions.

The Board conducts hearings at its Richmond office and in various locations throughout the Province. During the 1997 calendar year, the Board was able to schedule 868 hearings, over 910 days.

The current system of property assessment, including the appeal procedure to the Courts of Revision and the Assessment Appeal Board, was introduced to British Columbia in 1974. There have been many amendments to the Assessment Act and the Regulations since that time, but the basic structure has remained: the British Columbia Assessment Authority, a crown corporation, has responsibility for determining property assessments throughout the Province and the Courts of Revision and the Assessment Appeal Board have responsibility for determining appeals from those assessments. Appeals involve issues of actual value for land and improvements, application of the Major Industrial Properties Manual, exemptions from assessability, classification, and other issues. The Board has responsibility for interpreting provisions of the Assessment Act as well as a number of other statutes and regulations.

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AIMS AND OBJECTIVES

The following aims and objectives, formulated in 1993, have continued to be the Board's priorities:

    • To provide parties with impartial, fair and professional adjudications.
    • To strive for a consistent quality in the hearing process and decisions through training and continuing education for Members.
    • To maintain a high level of quality services.
    • With consideration for the assessment appeal calendar, to schedule and complete an optimum number of appeals within 12 months following the filing of appeals.
    • To provide the parties with written decisions as soon as possible following the hearings.
    • With consideration for budgetary concerns and the assessment appeal calendar:
      • to implement procedural changes to reduce costs and to complete adjudications in a timely fashion, and
      • to schedule as many hearings as possible in the Assessment Appeal Board offices in Richmond.

In 1997, the Board had the following, additional objectives:

    • To improve accountability and reporting, through improved systems for the collection, collation and reporting of data.
    • To provide increased case management, including various dispute resolution techniques, to assist parties in identifying issues and reaching agreements on facts and substantive issues (this has the dual benefit of reducing the number of cases that proceed to hearing and reducing the number of cases withdrawn from the hearing list just prior to hearing).

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BOARD MEMBERS

The Order in Council appointments for all Board Members were up for renewal in January and March 1997. In March, three new appointments were made: Laura Acton, Victoria; Robert Baird, Merritt; Ronald Freeman, Port Coquitlam. Due to the Ministry’s structural review (see "Summary"), all appointments were extended to January 31, 1998.

With the new appointments and re-appointments, the Board is composed of 22 Members. Appendix 1 contains a list of Board Member appointments showing the regional representation, terms of appointment and gender distribution. With the exception of the Chair/CEO, all Board Members are part-time, per diem appointments. Board Member qualifications include appraisal theory and valuation, law, real estate, municipal government, school boards, and other adjudicatory positions including the Courts of Revision.

Over the past year, Members have continued their diligence in rendering decisions in a thoughtful, professional and timely manner. However, Members have expressed frustration about the lack of up-to-date technology available to them. The Members feel that additional resources and technological upgrades would greatly enhance their decision writing and the timeliness of decisions. In the Board’s view, attention should be given to this area in the coming year.

STAFF

The composition of the Board staff is five full-time employees, including the Registrar/Administrator, and four on-call Recording Secretaries. The Board's staff is excluded from membership in the B.C. Government Employees Union under the Public Service Labour Relations Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, Chapter 388, s. 1.

Appendix 2 contains the Organization Chart for the office.

During 1997, the office reorganization was completed with the appointment of Ina Vonk and Jennifer Torrance as full-time, regular employees. This completes the rejuvenization of the Board’s staff, which began in 1993 when the Board’s offices moved from Maple Ridge to Richmond.

The Board is fortunate to have diligent employees who work together to produce a cohesive and high quality service. Through their combined efforts over the past year, the Board disposed of 46% of the outstanding appeals and increased timeliness in rendering decisions.

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BOARD MEETINGS AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Full Board meetings provide Members with opportunities to exchange views on recent cases, to discuss appraisal principles and issues which arise during hearings, and to participate in training and educational seminars. They also provide opportunities for discussion of the Board's Rules of Practice and Procedure. These meetings enhance the Board's ability to continue to provide quality and consistency in hearing procedures and decision making.

Full Board meetings and training sessions were held in March, August and December 1997. In place of the usual October meeting, Members attended the two day Educational Conference sponsored by the B.C. Council of Administrative Tribunals.

In April 1997, the Board conducted an Orientation and Training Seminar for the three new appointees. In October, the appointees attended a further training session that concentrated on appraisal principles and methodology.

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APPEAL STATISTICS

During 1997, the Assessment Appeal Board implemented enhancements to its appeal tracking system. The enhancements are intended to improve the Board's ability to compile information about the status of appeals and report appeal results. The enhancements have also greatly reduced the staff time required to compile the Board's statistical reports. Further enhancements to the system are planned for 1998.

Also during the past year, the Operational Review and Policy Unit (ORPU) of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing conducted a review of the Assessment Appeal Board's performance reports. The ORPU made several recommendations to enhance the usefulness and readability of the Board's statistical reports.

The status of appeals to the Board, as at December 31, 1997, is reported using the improved formats in Appendices 3 to 8. The results of the Board's work are reported statistically in Appendices 9 to 11. More detailed information, including information on appeals in specific areas, can be requested from the Board.

Status of Appeals as at December 31, 1997

As of December 31, there were 1,640 appeals to the Board outstanding. The table below, from Status Report A (Appendix 3), breaks down those appeals by appeal year. The status of those outstanding appeals is described in subsequent reports.

1997 Appeals

Status Report B (Appendix 4) breaks down the status of the 1997 appeals that remained outstanding on December 31. There were 1,072 assessment appeals (involving 4,126 properties) delivered to the Board in 1997. That is down slightly from 1996, and down significantly from previous years. Since the appeal deadline of April 30, 1997, the Board has concluded 432 (39%) of the 1997 appeals.

Of the 649 outstanding 1997 appeals, the Board has classified 369 of them as "To Be Scheduled" for hearing. The remainder of the outstanding appeals cannot be scheduled (they are awaiting a precedent setting court or Board decision), have been scheduled and are awaiting hearing, or have been heard and are awaiting the Board's decision.

The chart at left (from Status Report B - Appendix 4) shows that almost one-quarter of the 1997 appeals outstanding on December 31, 1997 are from the Vancouver assessment area.

Of the 369 appeals from 1997 that are to be scheduled for hearing, 99 also have appeals outstanding from earlier years ("Protective" appeals). Generally, all years will be scheduled for hearing at the same time, or a decision from the earlier year will facilitate resolution of the later appeal. In either case, the impact on the Board's workload is reduced.

The total assessed value of the properties which are the subjects of the outstanding 1997 appeals is $3,162 million. The values are broken down by classification in Status Report D (Appendix 6).

"Backlog" Appeals

Backlog of appeals

"Backlog" appeals are the appeals commenced in earlier assessment years. In 1997, all outstanding appeals from 1996 and earlier were "backlog" appeals. The Board has struggled with a backlog of appeals at least since 1993, when the annual assessment roll was reinstated. Although there is still a backlog, the Board believes it has made substantial progress in addressing the problem over the past year.The charts above and below (from Status Report C - Appendix 5) provide a breakdown of the backlog, by region. Although only 18% of the backlog appeals are from the Vancouver assessment area, 53% of the assessed value of the outstanding appeals is from that area.

The status of the outstanding backlog appeals is described graphically below. Further details are found in Status Report E (Appendix 7). The Board has reduced the total number of backlog appeals by 46% since December 31, 1996. More significantly, the number of backlog appeals to be scheduled has decreased to 495, which is 61% less than on December 31, 1996.

A large proportion (193 appeals) of the outstanding backlog appeals are awaiting a decision in other cases before they can be scheduled. The Board expects that the decisions in the other cases will influence resolution of many of those appeals, so that hearings will not be required. The majority are appeals of managed forest land by Fletcher Challenge/Timberwest Forest Products, which are awaiting a decision by the British Columbia Court of Appeal in judicial review proceedings.

The chart at the top of the next page (from Status Report F - Appendix 8) visually describes the nature of the "To Be Scheduled" backlog appeals. Almost one-half (212) of these "To Be Scheduled" appeals are Protective. As indicated above, reduction of the backlog should accelerate as the Board completes the appeals for properties with Protective appeals.

Appeal Results in 1997

Board Orders and Decisions

There were 1,804 appeals outstanding on December 31, 1996. During 1997, the Board received 1,072 new appeals. The Board completed 1,236 appeals, involving 2,823 properties. As a result, a total of 1,640 appeals remained outstanding on December 31, 1997. This is a net reduction of 164 appeals, or 9% of the appeals outstanding at the end of 1996.

Results Report A (Appendix 9) breaks down the appeals resolved in 1997 by the type of order that completed them. 1,006 of the orders were "Desk Orders". Desk Orders are processed in the Board’s office, without a hearing, to grant requests to withdraw appeals, to implement agreements between the parties ("Recommendations"), or to dismiss appeals because they are invalid. In 1997, the Board also issued 230 decisions after hearings, involving 453 properties.

The Board actually issued more orders than indicated in Results Report A. As some appeals involve more than one property, the Board may issue more than one order on an appeal before it is completed. The total number of decisions, withdrawals and recommendations processed by the Board in 1997 is indicated in Results Report B (Appendix 10).

Hearings

In many cases, the Board receives a request for a withdrawal or recommendation after the appeal has been scheduled for hearing - often shortly before the hearing is scheduled to commence. This is confirmed by the figures in the bottom portion of Results Report B. In 1997, only 38.1% of the appeals scheduled actually proceeded to a hearing. 11.1% of the hearings were adjourned, while 50.8% of the scheduled appeals were withdrawn or resolved by a recommendation. The figures for 1996 were similar.

Most appeals are heard by a panel of three Members. To save costs, the Board does try to use only a single member or a single member plus a consultant, when possible. However, the nature of the issues involved often makes it inappropriate to use fewer than three members. In areas outside of Vancouver and Victoria, the Board hears a large volume of appeals during a period of only one or two weeks.

Results Report B indicates that the Board used single member panels less frequently and that the average length of hearings increased in 1997. This is because there were fewer situations appropriate for single member panel hearings and the Board was involved in several more lengthy and complex appeals than in 1996.

Decision Timeliness

In 1996, the Board adopted a policy that Members are to prepare decisions so that they can be issued within 90 days of conclusion of the hearing. The policy was implemented in response to complaints about excessive delays in rendering Board decisions. As indicated in Results Report C, in 1995, the average time between the date a hearing was concluded and the date the Board rendered its decision was 218.6 days.

The Board has reduced the average delay to 112 days and the Board is still working to improve decision timeliness. Although less than one-half of the Board's decisions comply with the 90 day policy currently, the Board is issuing the majority of its decisions (76%) within 120 days. The postal strike in late 1997 delayed a number of decisions that would otherwise have been issued within 90 days.

The Board's policy anticipates that it is not always possible to complete a decision within 90 days. Some appeals involve very complex issues and facts that cannot be resolved within that time frame. There are a variety of other factors that inhibit the Board's ability to guarantee that it will issue all decisions within 90 days: some Members may hear several appeals during a short period of time; most Members are involved in other hearings during the 90 day decision writing period; and Members’ activities and occupations outside the Assessment Appeal Board reduce the time they have to write decisions.

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STATED CASES AND JUDICIAL REVIEWS

Appeals from Board decisions are by way of stated case to the Supreme Court of British Columbia (Assessment Act, Section 63(2)). Stated cases must be filed within 21 days of receipt of the Board decision. Appeals may be taken from the Supreme Court to the Court of Appeal, with leave.

Results Report C (Appendix 11) provides statistics on the Stated Cases commenced and decided during 1997, with figures from 1996 and 1995 for comparison. The Board was required to file 20 Stated Cases with the Supreme Court, which is an appeal rate of 8%. In 1997, the Supreme Court issued decisions in nine Stated Cases, five of which confirmed the Board’s decision. The other four appeals were returned for the Board to reconsider. Of the two appeals decided by the Court of Appeal during 1997, one was returned to the Board.

In each Stated Case, one or more legal issues may be submitted for the court’s opinion. In the Supreme Court’s nine decisions in 1997, it considered a total of 39 questions of law. For 72% of those questions, the Court decided that the Board had not erred.

Twenty Stated Cases remained outstanding on December 31, 1997. The Board expects to receive the Courts’ decisions on those cases during 1998.

Pursuant to section 63(1), the Board may state a case to the Supreme Court during a hearing for an opinion from the Court on a question of law arising in the appeal. In these situations, the Board must suspend the proceedings until the opinion is rendered. Since the Board has not issued a decision, this form of stated case is not an appeal of a final decision.

In 1997, the Board filed one stated case pursuant to section 63(1), Assessor of Area #05 - Port Alberni v. Tin Wis Resort Ltd. and Attorney General of British Columbia, questioning the jurisdiction to assess land on an Indian reservation and involving constitutional questions. Proceedings are pending in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

There is a rarely used right of appeal from Board decisions through judicial review, if there is no right of appeal by stated case. There is no time limit for filing judicial reviews.

There was one judicial review application filed in 1997. The application was by the Assessment Commissioner and occurred during the hearing of British Columbia Telephone Company v. Assessment Commissioner, which is the company’s appeal against the 1993 through 1997 Commissioners’ Rates for fibre optic cables. The Petition sought a declaration that the Board had committed an error of jurisdiction when it ordered the Commissioner’s witness to inform himself on matters relating to Commissioner’s rates other than those for fibre optic cables. The B.C. Supreme Court dismissed the Petition.

In the 1996 Annual Report, the Board discussed a number of Stated Cases and judicial reviews that affected the jurisdiction or proceedings of the Board. No similar decisions have been rendered by the Courts this year.

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CONSULTATIONS

In 1993, in response to the Annual Roll and budgetary concerns, the Board undertook a review of the Rules of Practice and Procedure. As these Rules have a considerable impact on hearing participants, the Board arranged for consultations to elicit opinions. The Board has continued to receive comments and recommendations from the assessment community and has continued to engage these participants in discussions. The Board is considering further amendments to its Rules, which may be implemented in 1998.

The Board continues to participate in seminars and discussions with many sectors of the community, including the Canadian Property Tax Association, property agents, the B.C. Assessment Authority, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, and legal counsel from the private bar. In October 1997, the Chair participated in a panel discussion at the Annual Conference of the Canadian Property Tax Association.

The Board remains in contact with other municipal boards and tribunals across Canada and has had fruitful discussions about many common challenges. The Board has ongoing liaison with other British Columbia boards and tribunals and exchanges information and shares educational materials with them.

In February 1996, the Policy and Research Branch of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing initiated a review of the statutory provisions governing assessment appeals and some of the current procedures. The Assessment Appeal Board continues to be actively involved in that review.

In June 1997, Board Vice Chair Cheryl Vickers attended the annual conferences of the National Institute of Administrative Tribunals (NIAT) and the Council of Canadian Administrative Tribunals (CCAT). Ms. Vickers also completed a Training for Trainers course, sponsored by the British Columbia Council of Administrative Tribunals (BCCAT) and the Continuing Professional Educational Institute.

The Chair and Vice Chair continue to be active in BCCAT. The Chair was elected Vice President at the Annual General Meeting in November 1997 and the Vice Chair is serving her second year as Secretary. The Vice Chair was selected as one of a team of tribunal sponsored instructors to deliver BCCAT’s Foundations of Administrative Justice course. The course will be delivered to members of administrative tribunals in British Columbia in 1998.

During BCCAT’s November educational conference, the Chair participated in a round table discussion with chairs of other B.C. agencies, boards and commissions. This session also attracted participation from tribunals across Canada. A Circle of Chairs was formed and held its first meeting in December 1997.

Both CCAT and BCCAT offer the members and staff from a variety of administrative tribunals valuable opportunities to discuss issues of common concern, both procedural and substantive, and to share in educational initiatives.

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FINANCIAL CONSIDERATIONS

An amendment to the Assessment Authority Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, Chapter 21, Section 17, resulted in a change in funding for the Courts of Revision and the Assessment Appeal Board. Previously, the budgets were paid from General Revenues. Now, the Assessment Authority is responsible for remitting requisitioned amounts, quarterly, to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

The table above shows the Board’s expected and budgeted expenditures for the 1998 fiscal year and the actual and budgeted expenditures for the previous four fiscal years. Although the Board exceeded its budget during fiscal years 1994 and 1995, the Board’s expenditures were under budget in the following two years. The Board anticipates that its expenditures also will be within budget in the fiscal year ending in March 1998.

In 1993, the Board recognized the need to reduce expenses and effected a number of changes. Those changes are described in the Board’s 1996 Annual Report. The Board is continuing to implement those changes and look for other ways to reduce the costs of administering appeals, while maintaining the quality of the Board’s service and the fairness of the process.

The Board has focussed on increased case management to provide higher quality service at a reduced cost. During 1997, the Registrar assumed responsibility for most pre-hearing conferences and other pre-hearing procedures. To assist him in developing further case management techniques, he attended a training course for mediators, sponsored by the British Columbia Marketing Board.

Expenditure Report A (Appendix 12) breaks down the Board's expenditure, by type, for the 1997 and 1996 calendar years. The report also provides some analysis of the outputs produced by the Board's expenditures during 1997 and 1996.

Expenditure Report B (Appendix 13) analyzes the per diem payments made to Board Members during 1997. The right-hand portion of the report calculates the number of days worked by Members to produce some of the outputs reported in Results Reports A and B (Appendices 9 and 10). Unfortunately, data to enable comparison with previous years is not available. As indicated in this chart, the bulk of Board's Members' time was spent in hearings (22.6%) or writing decisions (37.5%).

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SUMMARY

The Board is pleased to present the 1997 Annual Report in this new form. Since 1993, the Board has been endeavouring to increase its accountability and reporting systems. Although the 1996 Annual Report provided considerable data in the Appendices, it was recognized as difficult to comprehend. The Board has developed more effective systems for data collation and reporting over this past year, with the assistance of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

The comments made in the Summary to last year’s Annual Report still apply. Continuing education and training for Board Members remains a priority. The Board continues to make concerted efforts to hear and resolve appeals involving single family residential properties prior to the issuance of the next assessment roll.

On other appeals, the Board has continuing consultations with hearing participants and has increased its involvement in pre-hearing case management, to maximize the use of available hearing time and to assist the parties in identifying issues and resolving appeals prior to the hearing date. Although the Board cannot yet report statistics related to the use of pre-hearing conferences, the effectiveness of that tool may be reflected in the fact that the Board completed virtually as many appeals in 1997 (1,236) as in 1996 (1,246), while holding fewer hearings.

During 1997, the Board made a concerted effort to reduce the backlog of appeals, with the result that the backlog decreased by 46% between December 31, 1996 and December 31, 1997. Additionally, the Board has been concentrating on case management, preparing revised Rules of Practice and Procedure, developing an Appeal Form, revising the Board’s Guidelines pamphlet, developing a Policy and Procedures Manual, developing in-house training materials, working with the Ministry on legislative proposals and participating in policy discussions through the Ministry.

During 1997, the Board consulted with Ministry staff to assist them in a review of the Board’s structure. The Ministry is examining the current structure of the Board and comparing it with other agencies, boards and commissions. The review is expected to be completed in early 1998. If there are to be changes, they most likely will be implemented during the coming year.

This past year has been both demanding and productive, setting in place a number of initiatives which should come to fruition during the coming year.

The Board appreciates the ongoing assistance provided by the Ministry, through its liaison to the Board, the Human Resources Branch and the Financial Planning and Financial Operations departments. The Board is particularly grateful to the staff of the Ministry’s Operational Review and Policy Unit for their assistance with the improvements to the Board’s data collation and reporting systems.

The Board is also thanks its constituents who have taken the time and interest to engage in consultations, and is grateful for their suggestions and cooperation in examining and implementing new procedures. In the coming year, the Board is looking forward to continuing our consultations with members of the Assessment community and the Ministry to address further refinements to the appeal process.

Respectfully submitted,

 

M. Gwendolynne Taylor, Chair

Assessment Appeal Board

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