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Property tax decline bad news for struggling governments

POSTED June 24, 2011 8:01 p.m.

The real estate slide is slowing but isn’t over yet, according to the Stanislaus County Assessor’s Office.

Assessor Dave Cogdill Sr. announced Friday that the total value of assessed property decreased 3.36 percent to just $34 billion for the 2011-2012 tax assessment roll.

The decline is bad news for struggling governments, who expect to receive only about $340 million in property tax revenue, but good news for tax payers, Cogdill said as he described his office’s challenges in preparing the assessment roll.

“The staff reductions combined with an increase in work load made this another challenging year,” Cogdill said. “The staff worked diligently to finish their assigned duties and because of their hard work more property owners will benefit from an equitable assessed value, which in most cases will result in a lower property tax burden.”

The fall marks the fourth consecutive year of declining county property values. In total, the assessment roll has dropped 21 percent – nearly $9 billion – over the past four years.

The value of Turlock’s taxable property in particular declined 3.08 percent. Waterford fared worst in the county, dropping 9.61 percent, while Newman experienced a 1.47 percent increase in taxable property values.

This year’s 3.36 percent countywide decline was the lowest of the past four years. The 2009-2010 fiscal year recorded the largest decline – 7.84 percent – while values dropped 6.87 percent in 2008-2009 and just 4.69 percent in 2010-2011.

 

Residential slows slide, commercial falls

Proposition 13, as adopted in 1978, sets a base taxed value for properties as of their change in ownership. Each year that value is adjusted no more than 2 percent for inflation; this year, the inflator was .753 percent. But if market value is below the factored base value, the assessed value falls to the market value.

The Assessor’s Office reviewed nearly 143,000 property assessments this year, almost 80 percent of all taxable property in the county. Of those, 55,000 saw a decline in their assessed values, many of them commercial and industrial developments.

“Although the overall decline in residential values was less this year, a considerable number of commercial and industrial properties received substantial downward adjustments,” Cogdill said.

Stanislaus County assessed just 14,655 businesses this year, down from 15,327 last year.

Tax rolls of the future remain uncertain, especially related to agricultural properties. The Williamson Act, which reduces values of farmland and sees the state provide funding to offset the decline, may be abolished in the 2011-2012 California Budget, increasing the strain on farms and altering a source of the county’s revenue.

The Assessment Roll does not reflect any declines in value after Jan. 1. Those changes will be calculated in the 2012-2013 assessment, reflecting a Jan. 1, 2012 lien date.

 

Assessment data online only

With the assessment roll determined, property owners can now examine their assessed values. For the first time, those values are only available online.

In a cost-saving effort, the County Assessor will no longer mail assessment notices to property owners. Taxpayers may now check their assessed values online at http://qa.co.stanislaus.ca.us/AssessorWeb/public/ValueNotice-Search.jsp.

If taxpayers have questions about their assessed value, they can contact the Assessor’s office at  525-6461 or in person at 1010 10th St., 2nd Floor, Suite 2400, Modesto, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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