It’s that time of year again. Edmonton property owners have now received their property assessment notices and are getting ready to contribute their share of the City’s $2.5 billion operating budget for 2016.
“The dollars at stake are pretty significant,” says Stephen Hall, Assessor Intern with Assessment and Taxation. “We need to be absolutely sure in our assessment numbers because they are part of a larger process that enables the City to run its day-to-day operations.”
Indeed, in 2016, 56% or $1.4 billion of the City’s operating budget will come from property owners’ share – roughly enough to build 14 new rec centres, similar to The Meadows or Terwillegar. “We just have to get it right,” adds Stephen.
In order to “get it right,” assessors like Stephen go through an eight-year long, external and internal training process that takes them from intern to associate and then from associate to accredited assessor.
First, Stephen graduated with a four-year bachelor degree in commerce specializing in real estate and housing. Now, he has been taking the Certificate Program in Real Property Assessment from the University of British Columbia for the last two years. And then, he will take another two years to get his Diploma of Urban Land Economics.
“This St. Paddy’s Day, I will reach the mid point in this journey,” says Stephen. “I’ll get my certificate and become an assessor associate.”
And that’s not all.
In addition to the must-do external courses, City assessors have to complete our own internal courses. The assessor new hire training program that Assessment and Taxation runs requires assessors to be in the classroom for up to 270 hours in the first eight weeks alone.
“Sounds like a lot,” comments Jennifer Forest, Manager of Employee and Business Development with Assessment and Taxation, “but they need to know their business.”
Assessors’ business includes extensive knowledge in real estate appraisal, markets, economics, law, ethics and investment. They also learn about statistical and computer applications in valuation, real estate mathematics and analysis of residential and commercial properties.
“Ultimately, they need to know how to provide property owners with accurate market value-based valuations,” explains Jennifer.
There are also many skills that assessors need to help property owners understand the City’s property assessment process.
“Critical thinking, critical analysis, forecasting and, of course, customer service are some of the most important skills I have learned,” says Stephen. “But, the number one thing that you learn when assessing a property on the ground is to look for dogs and feisty cats coming at you.”
So there you have it. With fewer than 100 assessors, through an elaborate training process and honing of skills, the City’s assessment team is able to determine the value of each property in Edmonton to ensure that owners pay no more and no less than their fair share of the $2.5 billion that helps make this city a great place in which to work, live and play.
Also, don’t forget that the assessment review period ends on Friday, March 11. Most assessment-related concerns can be resolved by speaking with a 311 agent or assessor – with no formal complaint fees required.