David K. Ginsborg
 
  • Deputy to the Assessor
  • Phone: 408-299-5588

Email us, the fastest way to contact us

VIEW / DOWNLOAD MEDIA RELEASE

Assessor Larry Stone Challenges Administrative Decision Slashing the 49ers’ Property Taxes.

Today, Santa Clara Assessor Larry Stone brought a legal challenge to a property tax decision by an independent assessment appeals board, asking the court to reverse the board’s unprecedented, 50 percent reduction of the 49ers’ property taxes for Levi’s Stadium. .

“This decision must not be allowed to stand,” Stone said. “As assessor, I have always been committed to ensuring the property tax roll accurately reflects the value of the property being assessed. Here, the board failed to perform its core responsibility to carefully calculate the full value of the 49ers’ rights in the Stadium.”

The San Francisco 49ers’ operating company, “Stadco,” rents the stadium from a public entity, the Santa Clara Stadium Authority, and the 49ers are required by law to pay taxes on the full value of its interest in the property. As part of a unique public-private partnership, the stadium was custom built for professional football, but also hosts other events, such as corporate events and concerts, when it is not needed by the 49ers. The board’s decision incorrectly finds that the parties intended to split the valuable rights in the stadium 50-50 between public and private entities—despite the fact that the lion’s share of the stadium’s value lies in professional football uses for which it was custom-designed.

“This decision sets a troubling precedent that is legally incorrect and must be reversed,” said Santa Clara County Counsel James R. Williams, who filed the litigation on behalf of Stone. “Communities spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build stadiums to attract professional sports teams. But when the owners of these teams fail to pay their fair share of property taxes, they are taking away money from local schools, police and firefighters, and other valuable services that our communities need.”

“The Assessment Appeals Board decision resulted in a one-time refund of over $36 million, and an estimated on-going annual property tax reduction of $6 million. The Santa Clara Unified School District absorbed the greatest reduction of over $13 million. The agencies affected also include the West Valley Community College (over $3 million), the City of Santa Clara (about $3 million), and the Santa Clara County general fund (over $5 million). Several other public agencies refunded the balance.

Stone also points out that the decision fails to assign monetary value to the 49ers’ year-round, exclusive rights to valuable portions of the facility, including a large restaurant complex, state-of-the-art team museum, team store, private clubs, and audio-visual hub. The public authority retains no comparable rights or control over the events hosted at the stadium.

“The board’s decision ignores many of the 49ers’ valuable rights and instead simply splits the value of the stadium exactly in half between the 49ers and the public authority—a position for which neither side argued, that no data supported, and that no lawful valuation method can justify,” Stone explained.

Private property rights in otherwise tax-exempt public property are known as taxable possessory interests. Taxation of these interests places the possessor on equal footing with tenants who pay a pro-rata share of the private property owners’ taxes.

The writ petition, filed in Superior Court by the Santa Clara County Counsel on behalf of the Assessor in the matter of Lawrence E. Stone, Santa Clara County Assessor v. Santa Clara County Assessment Appeals Board No. 1, asks the court to send the matter back to the board with instructions to use a method reasonably calculated to capture the full value of the 49ers’ possessory interest. Both Stone and the board are required by California’s constitution to tax all properties at their full value.

“The assessment appeals board members do not always agree with my staff on the assessments, but most of the time when they disagree, we are close. During the past 24 years, over 90% of the contested assessed value or value at risk has been sustained. Last year it was 97%. A 50% reduction for a single appeal is completely out of the ordinary. In my opinion, the administrative body reached the wrong conclusion,” said Stone.

Tagged under

How a snafu — and rebate – on Santa Clara County property taxes brought a community together.

Homeowners rarely jump for joy when they hear from the County assessor, the guy responsible for calculating how much they’ll have to pay in Santa Clara County property taxes.

But Erin Cerdan was ecstatic when Assessor Larry Stone made a personal visit to her Gilroy home a few years back. In his hand was a big, fat government check for about $30,000, made out in her name by the government of the County of Santa Clara.

That’s why she was happy Stone stopped by her place again just recently. They reminisced about how Stone and other parts of County government made up for mistakenly overcharging her and hundreds of neighbors on their property taxes.

In some cases, they had overpaid for 20 years, through no fault of the County. The Assessor’s Office was never told that, as owners of below-market-rate houses, the neighbors were due a tax break. That was never calculated into their annual property tax bills.

Answer to prayer

It was Cerdan who uncovered the error when her mortgage shot up after the housing crisis eased. Her persistence led to rebates totaling $4 million — the overpayments plus interest

“It was a big answer to prayer because there is no way we would have been able to afford the jump in what we were going to have to pay,” Cerdan told Stone as they sat at her kitchen table.

“It just turned our life around to where we didn’t have to worry. … It’s life-changing.”

TotalNet

Cerdan hasn’t been living on easy street since getting the rebate, Stone learned. In fact, she’s out of work right now. And she had to pay a big chunk of the rebate to Uncle Sam. But at least she’s almost completely debt-free, and her husband has been able to quit his second job.

One of the women who helped get Cerdan’s campaign to recover the money was office worker Yvette Salcedo, a mother of five.

Facing tough times

In a recent interview at Cerdan’s house, Salcedo recalled she had been at the point of having to make a grim choice because of the mistake on the Santa Clara County property taxes. She could buy groceries or pay the mortgage. The rebate, which arrived on Christmas Eve 2015, was a huge relief for her, too.

Salcedo used her rebate to buy a used car; pay off debt; send a son on a middle-school trip to Washington and New York; bought a headstone for a deceased relative; and attended her son’s graduation from boot camp on the East Coast.

Now, Cerdan and her neighbors credit Stone, the Assessor’s Office, and other County officials with working hard to make things right. So much for the adage that you can’t fight city hall!

As angry as some people were when the mistake was uncovered, it turns out to have brought the whole neighborhood even closer together. And not a single lawyer got involved on the taxpayers’ behalf, Stone noted

“Lemons into lemonade,” Stone said, marveling at how it all turned out. “Overassess somebody, and they end up happy at the end of the day!”

 

Tagged under

How a snafu — and rebate – on Santa Clara County property taxes brought a community together.

Homeowners rarely jump for joy when they hear from the County assessor, the guy responsible for calculating how much they’ll have to pay in Santa Clara County property taxes.

But Erin Cerdan was ecstatic when Assessor Larry Stone made a personal visit to her Gilroy home a few years back. In his hand was a big, fat government check for about $30,000, made out in her name by the government of the County of Santa Clara.

That’s why she was happy Stone stopped by her place again just recently. They reminisced about how Stone and other parts of County government made up for mistakenly overcharging her and hundreds of neighbors on their property taxes.

In some cases, they had overpaid for 20 years, through no fault of the County. The Assessor’s Office was never told that, as owners of below-market-rate houses, the neighbors were due a tax break. That was never calculated into their annual property tax bills.

Answer to prayer

It was Cerdan who uncovered the error when her mortgage shot up after the housing crisis eased. Her persistence led to rebates totaling $4 million — the overpayments plus interest

“It was a big answer to prayer because there is no way we would have been able to afford the jump in what we were going to have to pay,” Cerdan told Stone as they sat at her kitchen table.

“It just turned our life around to where we didn’t have to worry. … It’s life-changing.”

TotalNet

Cerdan hasn’t been living on easy street since getting the rebate, Stone learned. In fact, she’s out of work right now. And she had to pay a big chunk of the rebate to Uncle Sam. But at least she’s almost completely debt-free, and her husband has been able to quit his second job.

One of the women who helped get Cerdan’s campaign to recover the money was office worker Yvette Salcedo, a mother of five.

Facing tough times

In a recent interview at Cerdan’s house, Salcedo recalled she had been at the point of having to make a grim choice because of the mistake on the Santa Clara County property taxes. She could buy groceries or pay the mortgage. The rebate, which arrived on Christmas Eve 2015, was a huge relief for her, too.

Salcedo used her rebate to buy a used car; pay off debt; send a son on a middle-school trip to Washington and New York; bought a headstone for a deceased relative; and attended her son’s graduation from boot camp on the East Coast.

Now, Cerdan and her neighbors credit Stone, the Assessor’s Office, and other County officials with working hard to make things right. So much for the adage that you can’t fight city hall!

As angry as some people were when the mistake was uncovered, it turns out to have brought the whole neighborhood even closer together. And not a single lawyer got involved on the taxpayers’ behalf, Stone noted

“Lemons into lemonade,” Stone said, marveling at how it all turned out. “Overassess somebody, and they end up happy at the end of the day!”

 

Tagged under