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Iqaluit puts pressure on tardy taxpayers

Property owners scramble to avoid losing homes

Kathleen Lippa
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Aug 11/03) - Being such a new capital city, it's the first time Iqaluit has had to deal with the annual problem that plagues every city: property owners who haven't paid their taxes.

There were 17 property owners out of step with the Property Owners Assessment Act this year.

But after more phone calls and letters were sent out, and the lots themselves had been made public, by Thursday of last week there were 10 property owners in Iqaluit who still owed the city money.

John Hussey, director of finance, was confident that number would go down to eight by the end of the day.

"The next step is registered letters about tax sale," Hussey said on Thursday. "It's another opportunity for them to pay up so they won't lose their home."

For those who do not pay, a public auction of those properties is scheduled for Sept. 15.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) fears many people will be left homeless, and sent a letter to Iqaluit Mayor John Matthews this week urging him to postpone the auction.

But Hussey thinks property owners will take action before then.

He said the issue seems big right now because it's a first for Iqaluit.

But it's more of unpleasant task for city officials than anything.

"It's an unfortunate step the city has to take," he said about the letters, phone calls about having to put properties up for public sale. "But if we don't it's hard to justify to other tax payers who come in and pay on a regular basis. That's the pressure we get from the public."

In July property owners who owe the city more than $500 are listed in the newspapers.

"We're following the act," Hussey explained.

"What we're trying to do is maintain a little bit of good will with the clients, even though they are in a bad situation and owe us money."

So far, names of people haven't been published.

But that will happen this week.

"Next week we list the names," said Hussey. "It's an embarrassment to some people."