100% realty tax increase shocks property owners
posted 23-Dec-2018  ·  
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Residents of the capital town long used to paying their real property taxes in advance to avail of the 20% discount got the shock of their lives recently when they found out that their tax due for 2019 has more than doubled compared to what they paid a year ago.

The growing outcry against the 100-percent increase in real property values and taxes being implemented by the provincial government of Catanduanes through local assessors prompted Virac Mayor Samuel Laynes to ask the Sangguniang Bayan to pass a measure asking the Capitol to withhold implementation of the concerned provincial ordinance.

In Municipal Resolution No. 2018-12-382 approved by the council last Dec. 3, 2018, Vice Mayor Arlynn Arcilla and SB members Alipio Abundo, Reynante Bagadiong, Rosie Olarte, Virgilio Candelaria, Nel Asanza, Amador Abichuela and Hazel Isidoro urgently requested the provincial government, through Governor Joseph Cua, to declare a moratorium on the implementation of Provincial Ordinance No. 004-2018.

“Virac taxpayers were not properly informed prior to the 100% increase in real property values and taxes nor was an exhaustive consultation with stakeholders ever conducted, including public hearings and an information campaign in the municipality,” the legislative body pointed out.

The General Revision of real property assessments is “untimely,” it added, considering the present situation in the Bicol region wherein it is experiencing economic stress due to an inflation rate of 9.7%, beyond the average of 7% in the country.

“The increase in value of real properties shall deprive the low- and middle-income earners the opportunity to procure an affordable piece of abode,” the Sangguniang Bayan said, noting that the revised schedule of market values of real properties has generated adverse reaction from property owners.

“There has been a strong clamor from Virac constituents that implementation of the said Provincial Ordinance be temporarily suspended,” it stressed.

A copy of the resolution was sent to the provincial board the other Monday, Dec. 10, 2018

It may be recalled that on its regular session on Jan. 15, 2018, the SP headed by Vice Gov. Shirley Abundo, together with PBMs Rafael Zuniega, Giovanni Balmadrid, Natalio Popa Jr., Arnel Turado, Lorenzo Templonuevo Jr., Gregorio Angeles and Juan Velchez enacted the concerned ordinance approving the schedule of market values of real properties in the province’s 11 municipalities.

It was the Provincial Assessor, in the coordination with the municipal assessors of the different towns, which prepared and submitted the Schedule of Market Values of Real Properties in the Province of Catanduanes for General Revision 2017 to the SP, through the Committee on Ways and Means chaired by PBM Zuniega.

Under said ordinance, the base market values for commercial and residential lands were increased by 100 to 200 percent particularly along national roads and business districts, with all other areas doubling in value.

In Virac alone, the business areas in barangays Concepcion, San Jose, Salvacion, Sta. Elena, and Sta. Cruz saw their market values zoom from the original P3,000 per square meter to P10,000 per square meter.

The increase in the San Roque along both sides of Masagca St. to Augusto St. was highest, tripling from the original P2,500 to P10,000 per square meter. In other residential and commercial areas, the market values of properties either doubled or tripled, depending on their location and distance from the main road.

Even the other 10 towns were not spared from the huge hike in real property assessment and taxes.

Here are examples of the increases in market values of commercial lands by towns: Bagamanoc, from P300 to P1,000 per square meter; Baras, from P600 to P1,200; Bato, from P650 to P1,300; Caramoran, from P600 to P960; Gigmoto, from P550 to P1,100; Pandan, from P750 to P1,500; Panganiban, from P700 to P1,400; San Andres, from P700 to P2,000; San Miguel, from P650 to P1,500; and, Viga, from P750 to P1,500.

A local assessment officer disclosed to the Tribune that in a meeting with PBM Zuniega last year, they requested that the provincial board lower the assessment levels in view of the big jump in unit market values. To the credit of the SP, it indeed lowered the assessment levels from the previous 20% to 12% for residential lands, 40% to 35% for agricultural lands and 50% to 40% for commercial lots, but it appears to have little impact as far as reducing the tax hike is concerned.

Another official said the SP should have conducted a tax impact study before approving the higher property values in order to determine its effect on the real property taxes to be paid by the public.

Records of the SP show that the Committee on Public Information conducted the mandatory public hearing on the proposed measure last April 5, 2017 at the session hall in Virac.

However, some Sangguniang Bayan members of different municipalities who were present informed the committee that “they were not cognizant (of) nor consulted prior thereto by their respective Municipal Assessor’s Offices.”

In an April 24, 2017 resolution that was circulated to the 11 municipal councils, the SP enjoined the Sangguniang Bayans to review and submit recommendations to the proposed ordinance relative to the revision of the schedule of market values for real properties for 2017 in their respective towns.

While it is mandated under the Local Government Code that the enactment of an ordinance lies on the SP as far as such market value revision is concerned, the law does not prohibit that the same be subject for review by the respective Sangguniang Bayans prior to its enactment, the SP stated.

It emphasized that the results of the review by the Sangguniang Bayans may be used as inputs in the determination as to “the appropriateness and viability, including the acceptability by their respectivfe constituents,” of said revision.

The 11 municipal councils were mandated to submit their recommendations within 30 days from receipt of the resolution.

In Virac, however, it appears that the Sanggunian, particularly the Ways & Means committee headed by Councilor Asanza, did not do anything with regards to the proposed schedule of market values submitted by the municipal assessor’s office on April 19, 2017.

An SB member admitted that no action was taken by the body as a whole or by said committee with regards to the matter. Records also showed that until May 12, 2017, the provincial board waited for the council’s recommendation on Virac market values and was informed that a committee hearing on the issue had yet to be called.

It is also claimed that Mayor Laynes is set to ask municipal assessor Elvira Panti to explain why she broke protocol by failing to inform the mayor’s office of the matter or even furnishing it a copy of the schedule of market values.

In the island’s second biggest town, the San Andres SB last year passed Resolution No. 09-079-2017 interposing no objection to the proposed schedule of market values submitted by the municipal assessor to the provincial assessor.

With the SP yet to act on the Virac municipal council’s request, many property owners who had their  lands and buildings assessed have held off paying for the increased real property taxes.

Under the LGC, the real property taxes paid by property owners and remitted to the provincial government are shared three ways, with 40 percent going to the municipality which collects the taxes, 25 percent to the barangay where the property is located, and the remaining 35% retained by the provincial government.

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