Skip to comments.CA: Property taxes to increase despite falling home values
Posted on 03/16/2009 10:16:16 AM PDT by NormsRevenge
With home values in free fall in many places, it might follow logically that property taxes would go down as well.
Not so in San Diego County.
The county assessor's office predicts that property taxes will increase this year for 75 percent of homes and other properties. That would produce a projected $91 million in additional revenue to the county, cities, school districts and other jurisdictions.
We don't have a choice, said Jeff Olson, chief of county property assessment services.
The mandate comes from Proposition 13, the 1978 tax-limitation measure, and subsequent regulations. The state initiative, passed when skyrocketing inflation on home prices pushed property taxes beyond many household budgets, sets the tax at roughly 1 percent of the purchase price and increases it by up to 2 percent annually.
The increase is based on a measure of overall inflation, excluding real estate. While home prices dropped 24.4 percent last year, Olson said the inflation rate was 3.5 percent.
So the 2 percent increase will kick in again this year. We've only had a handful of years in the past 20 where we didn't go up 2 percent, Olson said, the lowest being 1.11 percent in 1998.
Olson said the Franchise Tax Board, which is conducting its usual audit of the assessor's office, does not allow individual assessors to vary from the official adjustment.
With an overall 2 percent increase, county Treasurer-Tax Collector Dan McAllister expects to send out bills totaling about $4.6 billion this fall, $91 million more than last year. The increase last year was 4.6 percent, higher than 2 percent because of reassessments on properties that changed hands.
I think we are on autopilot as per Proposition 13, McAllister said. Until that is overturned in part or in whole, we're bound by it. I think, frankly, in our lifetimes, that's not likely. It's just not going to go away.
There is an exception for properties whose assessed valuations have fallen below market value. Such owners receive a temporary tax decrease that will reverse once values pick up again. Olson estimated that about 140,000 properties will get tax cuts this year.
Property owners who disagree with assessed valuations can plead their case before the county Assessment Appeals Board.
That's where Gaye Stennett, 74, found herself this month. A resident of the downtown Meridian condo tower, she appeared before the five-member board to ask that all upward assessments be frozen because of economic conditions facing many owners.
I felt it was my civic duty to go down there, she said. We're not one of those seniors who have lost everything in their retirement funds. But there are thousands who have, and there are many in this building who had it all in stocks . . . I'm arguing not on our behalf but on everybody's behalf.
Stennett lost her appeal, but some board members encouraged her to pursue her cause.
Stennett, who used to sell real estate, acknowledged that she and her husband did not have much to complain about. They bought their 13th-floor unit for $351,240 in 1988, but were able to retain their $95,225 assessed valuation from a previous East County home under a tax provision benefiting owners 55 years or older.
The annual Proposition 13 cap has lifted their assessed value on their condo to the present level of $138,746, still far below its $800,000 market value.
Her tax bill last year was $1,657, after deducting the standard $7,000 homeowner's exclusion and adding on special fees and charges. Another 2 percent increase will boost the tax bill by $28 this year.
Olson said that if the Stennetts did not qualify for the senior tax exclusion, their bill would be $5,600. If Proposition 13 weren't in effect, it would be $8,600.
But Stennett said she tried to convince the appeals board that it should be able to invoke the calamity clause in state law that allows for taxes to be reduced.
Certainly this housing collapse is a calamity just ask the president of the country, she said.
However, Olson said calamity applies only to physical damage, as in the 2003 and 2007 firestorms, not economic downturns.
I always say I'm not a policymaker, I'm a policy follower we just follow the rules, Olson said.
Critics of Proposition 13 have long complained that its provisions make for unfair and uneven tax bills. But cities, counties, schools and the state itself say it helps keep revenue stable and predictable, in good times and bad.
Richard Rider, chairman of San Diego Tax Fighters and a Proposition 13 defender, said Stennett has a point in tying taxes to the economic doldrums.
Any economist will tell you raising taxes in the depth of a recession is ludicrous, he said. I think she's got a great cause. But politically, it's going to be very difficult to gain traction.
As for trying to get the law changed by circulating petitions and marching on Sacramento, Stennett begged off any further activism.
At my age, I just don't feel quite up to it, she said. Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, named for the co-author of Proposition 13, said the Legislature would have to pass a law to freeze taxes.
Because it's raised taxes on everything else, perhaps they should indeed waive the 2 percent inflation factor this year, Coupal said. It's never going to happen, given the thirst for taxpayer dollars these guys have.
It’s the beauty of Prop 13. Revenues still increase in a downturn. And the homeowners already know it will.
In other words, you oppose a system of generally lower taxes — which is what Prop. 13 produced.
What the story doesn’t emphasize is how property taxes did not increase nearly as quickly as home prices during period of skyrocketing home prices.
Again, you cannot artificially create price controls, whether you are voter or a government bureaucrat, the same result happens either way.
Price controls? Not taxing a change in market value is hardly a "price control."
Shall we start taxing your stock portfolio at the market value, too?
You're not a politician, are you?
That is an asinine comment.
I'll let people figure it out for themselves; if you chart inflation vs increases in expenditures for education, the result speaks for itself.
What does the prosperity of the peasants have to do with the amount of tribute they owe the nobility? ;)
Hahahah, I wish, house value 150k, total annual property taxes about 6k.
Now County taxes aren’t that bad, under 1,000 of that, the rest is all School District tax, oh and the school district also gets another .5% income tax as well.
I pay less that 1/2 of my school tax bill every year to send my child to a private school, to be better educated than I pay in taxes to the public school, that is among the top 20% in terms of spending per student, and among the bottom 20% in terms of performance among comparably sized schools in my state. Oh, and just so you know 30%+ of the entire school districts budget is simply for benefits for teachers who are no longer even working.
Never ever live in a Commonwealth folks... State government is generally far far far more cost effective.
I don't really blame the guy from PA. I can't imagine the freedom he now feels to be out of a hell hole. But, as a result of his insane purchase price, he just cost me an extra 3k a year in taxes. That's 3k in less cattle feed, fencing, vet bills, etc. that I have to work with. It just sucks.
We inherited most of this particular property, we had to buy the cousins out. It has been the “homeplace” for 5 generations for DH’s family. My mother lives there now, and has made pets of the cattle to the point of naming her favorites.
It's not a place we would ever consider selling, as we have generation #6 at 17 & 14 years old, respectively. They'll have to decide if its worth the hassle of keeping it.
6k on 150K? Crap!
BTW, I stayed in Pittsfield, Ma. for a short time, a very short time! I moved across the line to Canaan, NY real quick. LOL
Man is a reasoning rather than a reasonable animal. - Alexander Hamilton
Are you proud of your state, at #26? [I guess not, you don't flag the flag on your FR page]
BTW, California isn't "dead" last, but all government schools are substandard.
Before the concept of Communism, Socialism and Fascism existed.
By any other name, any fruitcake that asserts that land, all land, belongs to everybody should remain in the dustbin of history, where he presently resides.
On the bright side, if in fact it belongs to "everybody," then the State should be taxing itself! Since none of us "own" property.
The two most abundant things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.
Paper value, ephemeral future "windfalls," are meaningless for those who expect to live in their homes their entire lives.
Please, don’t get me wrong I hate property taxes, they are a holdover from the days when agriculture was the norm and land = production. Its shameful that property taxes are forcing folks from their land and homes. Frankly I think the only taxes that should be allowed are consumption taxes, period.
Actually when you measure it by spending per student to performance per student it is indeed dead last. Those handful that are “lower” in those ratings don’t spend as much per student.
And yes, all public schools are sub par, public schools are to education what public housing is to housing.
Do you get a bill every year that breaks down where those tax dollars are spent?
Not one former janitor in the State Capitol is getting his pension or health benefits cut...
Not one policeman is entering HUD housing projects or emergency rooms to deport illegals...
Not one teacher’s union employee is taking a pay cut.
The Liberal Democratic state is going to go bust, let the illegals and Sean Penn have this place....
We are off to Idaho!
Hahaha, trust me I am not a speculator, I am also no fan of property taxes at all, but the reality is that if you are funding a service/product by a tax, and you place an artificial price control on it, you are just setting up a mess. Same is true if you try to price control a product out in the free market.
If schools are funded by property taxes, and you cap property taxes at 2% per year, while at the same time the general rate of inflation is 4-8%, you are guaranteeing that the service will decline. Just like if you did this in the private sector you’d ensure the product would either decline in quality or availibility or both.
Its not rocket science, its simple mathematics. Lets just walk out 4 years shall we, assuming everything is balanced year 0, with 4 years, you will compounded annually 2% per year deficites assuming inflation stayed at the low end, 2% compounded for 4 years is going to be about 10%ish deficite to just keep things equal, exted that out another 4 years and you are at 25%+ deficite.
Personally I’d love to see no taxes other than consumption taxes, but given the system we are talking about is property taxed used to fund school systems, you wind up with a rapidly declining educational system under a strictly capped model such as prop 13.
Yea that $’s to quality ratio stinks don’t it?
California politics is corrupt to the core.
Dead last works for me, the worse it is the harder it will fall.
But big deal.
Work on the problems in your state instead of bashing others, we will work on the ones in ours.