Board of Supervisors Hold Special Session to Consider

At 4:45 today the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will hold a rare special session to consider Assessor Larry Stone’s urgent request that the Board waive the $30 filing fee currently required when disputing assessed values for qualifying applicants on a one-time basis only. Thursday morning, Assessor Stone concluded that his staff would not be able to complete the review of all requests for assessment reductions.

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In addition to the 90,000 proactive reductions in assessed values provided prior to the July 1 close of the 2009-10 assessment roll, totaling $17.4 billion, the assessor’s office has been overwhelmed with additional requests for reductions, a 400 percent increase over the prior year. “Between June 26 and August 28 my appraisal staff reviewed the assessed value of over 29,000 residential properties. Regrettably, we were unable to complete 5,000 requests which were filed timely, prior to the deadline for filing an assessment appeal. It is bad enough that these 5,000 property owners will now need to file another application with the Assessment Appeals Board prior to September 15, but to ask them to pay $30 is simply not fair. All of these property owners filed their requests by the deadline of August 15 and should not be penalized. I am very grateful to the President of the Board of Supervisors, Liz Kniss, for immediately recognizing the gravity of the problem and calling a rare special session on Friday afternoon. I want to thank the Clerk of the Board Maria Marinos for exceptional cooperation and assistance,” said Assessor Larry Stone.

The avalanche of requests was a direct response to the dramatic drop in the market value of residential property values. There are two ways to dispute an annual assessed value: (1) request an informal review by the Assessor or (2) file an Application for Changed Assessment with the independent Assessment Appeals Board. The deadline to request an informal review ended August 15, and the deadline to file an Application of Changed Assessment concludes September 15.

Due to the unexpectedly large volume of requests, the Assessor’s entire appraisal staff has been redirected from processing, valuing and enrolling assessments resulting from changes in ownership and new construction, to processing requests for reduction. In addition, the appraisal staff worked overtime every Saturday since July 22 to keep up with the extraordinary number of requests. “Despite every effort, we simply could not keep up with the demand,” said Stone. These taxpayers need to file a formal Application for Changed Assessment if they are to receive any further consideration of a reduction to their 2009-10 assessed value.

Applications for changed assessments must be received in the Office of the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors, or postmarked no later than September 15. Applications received or postmarked after that date cannot be accepted pursuant to State statute.

In considering whether or not to file an assessment appeal, taxpayers are urged to keep in mind that the valuation date is January 1, 2009, meaning that only sales or other market data that occurred prior to March 31, 2009, may be considered for the appeal. Sales or other market activities that occur after March 31, 2009, cannot be considered for the January 1, 2009, valuation date.

After an appeals application is filed, and during the review and preparation process, an appraiser will contact appellants to discuss the market data the Assessor relies on in formulating the opinion of value. The appraiser will discuss the basis for the Assessor’s opinion, and the taxpayer may choose to withdraw their appeal or to stipulate to another value. If the appellant disagrees with the Assessor’s opinion and chooses not to withdraw the appeal or enter into a stipulation to a different value, the case will be heard by the Assessment Appeals Board (AAB). The AAB is an independent panel of appraisers, accountants and real estate professionals, separate from the assessor's office, established by the Board of Supervisors to review and decide valuation disputes between the County Assessor and property owners.

The Assessor will notify the 5,000 taxpayers on Monday that they will need to submit an Application for Changed Assessment in order to pursue any further review of their property assessment. Should they wish to have the filing fee waive, each property owner must meet the following criteria and provide a copy of the letter with their application:

  1. A person affected or the person’s agent, or a relative mentioned in Property Tax Rule 317, timely filed a PROP 8 (DECLINE-IN-VALUE) REQUEST FORM requesting review of the 2009-10 assessed value of the property on or before the Assessor’s August 15, 2009, deadline; and
  2. The Assessor has not completed the review prior to August 31, 2009; and
  3. The Application for Changed Assessment is filed with the Clerk of the Board between September 1 and September 15, 2009 inclusive.

In late September, the Tax Collector will issue the annual property tax bill. Payable in two installments; the first installment of the tax bill is due December 10. Reductions, which are the result of the “informal” review by the assessor’s office, will be reflected in the tax bill. Filing a formal appeal does not relieve the taxpayer of their obligation to timely pay their property tax bill. Any subsequent reductions in assessed value agreed to by the Assessor or ordered by the Assessment Appeals Board will be separately noticed and may result in subsequent refunds.

Attached is a copy of the transmittal submitted to the Board.

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David K. Ginsborg

 
  • Deputy to the Assessor
  • Phone: 408-299-5588

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