ALAMEDA, Calif. — California’s statewide property tax roll declined 1.8% this year, according to a report released last week by a state agency.
It was the second consecutive year the tax roll declined — and the only such declines since the state’s Board of Equalization began keeping records in 1933, said the board’s chairwoman, Betty Yee.
Total assessed property values in the state’s 58 counties declined by $78.2 billion to $4.371 trillion. Because California law specifies a base 1% tax rate, the $78.2 billion in lost value will translate into a minimum of $782 million in lost property tax revenue.
That figure does not include any additional local voter-approved property taxes, such as those levied to repay general obligation bonds.
In 2009, the statewide roll dropped by $107.2 billion, or 2.4%.
This year, 48 of the state’s 58 counties saw tax rolls shrink, including nine that dropped by more than 5%, according to a BOE news release.
The worst-hit county was Calaveras County, down 11.9%.
The largest absolute decline came in California’s largest county, Los Angeles County, which saw its assessment roll decline by $19.8 billion, a 1.8% drop.
Only two counties increased their tax rolls by more than 2%.
San Francisco, where many neighborhoods have avoided major declines in home values, was up 4.3%.
The tax roll in Kern County increased by 4.6%, a gain attributed largely to the oil and gas industry, which comprises about one-third of the county’s roll. The expansion was “driven by higher oil prices, the addition of new reserves, and new construction,” according to the Board of Equalization release.
The assessed valuation in California’s 15 coastal counties, which account for nearly 60% of total assessed valuation, fell 1.1%, while the 43 inland counties fell 2.8%.
The statewide tax roll dropped despite property tax rules set by Proposition 13 in 1978 which effectively reduced the volatility of the overall tax roll.
Proposition 13 set a basic 1% property tax rate, with most properties only being reassessed at market value when they are sold.
Many properties that have not changed hands for years have assessed valuations well below their market values.
Therefore, overall declines in the real estate market, such as California has experienced in the current recession, aren’t fully reflected in the property tax rolls.
The assessment for a property that does not change ownership can only rise a maximum 2% annually — but even that didn’t happen this year.
Instead, citing federal consumer price index data, the Board of Equalization set a negative inflation factor of 0.237% for property base values.
Property assessments are also capped at the actual value of the property. County assessors across the state have reduced assessments for hundreds of thousands of homes as home values have declined due to the real estate bust.