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CA: Property taxes to increase despite falling home values
San Diego Union - Tribune ^ | 3/16/09 | Roger Showley

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.”

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Politics/Elections; US: California
KEYWORDS: calamity; california; caltaxes; homevalues; increase; landtax; prop13; propertytaxes; realestate
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To: HamiltonJay

Didn’t think it. I agree with the consumption taxes. It is the only truly “fair tax”.

61 posted on 03/16/2009 12:08:32 PM PDT by graywaiter (You can't multiply wealth by dividing it.............Dr. Adrian Rogers)
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To: HamiltonJay

So dead last is now subjective and we each get to make up our own scale.
Certainly a novel thought, but may I suggest that when making up your own rating system that you not publish the results in all caps.

By the by - I went to CA public schools and did just fine.

62 posted on 03/16/2009 12:31:45 PM PDT by BlueNgold (... Feed the tree!)
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To: NormsRevenge

There is so much wrong in this article that it is clearly written by a tax and spend liberal media drone.

63 posted on 03/16/2009 1:05:31 PM PDT by CSM (Smokers, the most patriotic of Americans!)
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To: Publius6961

As Tolstoy said, the only people who disagree with George are those who don’t know him. However, the advantage ignorance has over stupidity is that ignorance can be cured. Start with this question - how does land become private property?

Communism and socialism predate George. Fascism is only socialism enforced by brown shirts.

If you have ever noticed, we do not buy Real Estate. We buy a “bundle of rights.” These rights are further compromised by things like eminent domain and zoning. George’s system is basically more honest then the current myth.

Once we realize that land is common property, it makes sense for government to finance itself solely by taking all the rent which accrues from the exclusive use of land (but not from the buildings attached to the land).

64 posted on 03/16/2009 1:23:19 PM PDT by stop_fascism
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To: RC2
They supposedly have a “system” that is used. They compile a number of comps within your area and one of the comps he used at the time was from 9 months earlier. I told him values had dropped dramatically since then which was apparent with the more current comps I had produced. He kept going back to his “system” which allowed him to use the very old comp too. That comp blew the whole median average for the other comps, it being significantly higher in valuation. If he pulls the same trick on me this year I WILL go ahead and appeal it.
65 posted on 03/16/2009 1:58:39 PM PDT by 444Flyer (Don't beLIEve Obama.............................Never give up, never give in, never give out!)
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To: RC2
If the values of homes has gone down, taxes should also go down

I think the article is purposely confusing and probably misled you.

Property taxes won't diminish until the market value is significantly less than the assessed valuation. In California today, many homes have been protected by Prop 13 for so long that their assessed valuation is still significantly less (60% less) than their current market value, even in a bear market.

As an example; a typical, California home ($100K) entered into Prop 13 protection in 1979 may today only have an assessed valuation of $125K while the market valued has plunged from $350K two years ago to $275K today. The assessed valuation is still, however, more than $250K below market. That house would continue to be appraised upward this year by 2%.

66 posted on 03/16/2009 2:27:19 PM PDT by Amerigomag
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To: HamiltonJay
Hahahaha.. its also part of the reason why California schools are ranked DEAD LAST in the nation.

From this "analysis," I would have sworn yours was.

There is no correlation between spending and performance. None.

67 posted on 03/16/2009 4:13:17 PM PDT by Carry_Okie (The environment is too complex and too important to manage by central planning.)
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To: HamiltonJay

You really seem to be all over the board on this. You comment that property taxes should be higher, then say you are no fan. You contend that more taxes will help the school situation, then acknowledge that pupil performance is low given the already generous amount of dollars thrown at public education. And now, you are back to talking about “price controls.”

Question: Are you aware of that property taxes represent only 20% of school funding and the rest of the funding comes from other taxes? Are you aware that Prop 98 dedicates (and guarantees) an obscene amount of the State’s General Fund to education? I think not.

68 posted on 03/16/2009 5:45:06 PM PDT by calcowgirl ("Liberalism is just Communism sold by the drink." P. J. O'Rourke)
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To: Eric in the Ozarks
Its [sic] the Wellstone Principle.

What's the "Its the Wellstone Principle?" Searching through Google provided no clear definition. Thanks in advance.


69 posted on 04/20/2009 6:48:06 AM PDT by alexander_busek
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To: alexander_busek
It was named for the late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone. Libs in the North Star State still display yard his yard signs though he died six or seven years ago.
Its is correct, btw.
70 posted on 04/20/2009 7:00:01 AM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks
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To: Eric in the Ozarks
Its is correct, btw.

No, the meaning was: "It is the Wellstone Principle."

"It is" can be contracted to "It's," but not to "its."

Rather, "its" is a possessive pronoun (like "his," "her," "my," or "their"). Just as it would make no sense to write "My the Wellstone Principle," it would be wrong to write "Its the Wellstone Principle."

You're welcome! (Or, if you insist: "Your welcome!)


Its [sic] the Wellstone Principle.

71 posted on 04/20/2009 12:08:56 PM PDT by alexander_busek
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To: alexander_busek

It’s implies ownership. The contraction is without the apostrophe.

72 posted on 04/20/2009 12:15:41 PM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks
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To: alexander_busek

Write much ?

73 posted on 04/20/2009 5:58:05 PM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks
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To: Eric in the Ozarks
Write much ?

I'm a professional copy-editor and German-English translator. And yes: I've helped edit dictionaries.


74 posted on 04/21/2009 8:56:41 AM PDT by alexander_busek
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To: Eric in the Ozarks
It’s implies ownership. The contraction is without the apostrophe.

I recommend consulting the following website:


75 posted on 04/21/2009 9:05:51 AM PDT by alexander_busek
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To: alexander_busek

10 years in the scribbling profession as an editor, reporter and statehouse correspondent for a television chain.

76 posted on 04/21/2009 11:04:04 AM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks
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To: Eric in the Ozarks
10 years in the scribbling profession as an editor, reporter and statehouse correspondent for a television chain.

Well, then I'm sincerely surprised that you were not aware of the proper usage of these words, and even admonished me for using them correctly.

Did you visit the website I recommended?

Here's a summary from yet another website ( dealing with this issue:

These two English words are very often used incorrectly by native speakers. It's important that you understand the difference.


It's is a contraction of "it is" or "it has."

It's time to go.

Do you think it's ready?

I read your article - it's very good.

Do you know where my purse is? It's on the table.

It's been a long time.


Its is the possessive form of "it."

That's an interesting device - what is its purpose?

I saw Les Misérables during its initial run.

This stove has its own timer.

The bird lost some of its feathers.

Where is its head office?

The Bottom Line

The confusion between it's and its occurs because on virtually every other word 's indicates possession, so English speakers naturally want to use it's to mean "something belonging to it." But it's is only used when it's a contraction of it is or it has.

The ironclad rule - no exceptions - is that if you can replace the word with "it is" or "it has," use it's. Otherwise, it's always its.


77 posted on 04/21/2009 11:43:59 AM PDT by alexander_busek
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To: alexander_busek
The cat lays on its back...
I can always use a good edit.
78 posted on 04/21/2009 11:50:47 AM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks
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To: Eric in the Ozarks
I can always use a good edit.

We can all use a good editing.


79 posted on 04/22/2009 9:25:58 AM PDT by alexander_busek
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