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Regional Spotlight: Reappraisal of Home Can Ease Taxes in East Bay, California

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RISMEDIA, May 4, 2007-(MCT)-East Bay homeowners who bought in the height of the housing market during the past two years and worry their home lost value could get some property tax relief — provided an appraisal can back it up, officials said.

In 1978, California voters passed Proposition 8, a law that would allow homeowners to request an assessment of their property when there has been a possible decline in the market value.

Using the assessed value of the property on Jan. 1 of the current year, the initiative allows counties to temporarily lower property taxes to reflect the decline in value.

Contra Costa County Assessor Gus Kramer said that this year his office has received about 400 requests from homeowners to reappraise their property and estimated that an additional 4,000 residential properties would be reassessed.

Property tax rollbacks have been big news since Sacramento County Assessor Kenneth Stieger announced April 20 that about 50,000 homeowners would have property taxes cut as much as 10 percent, which could cost about $15 million in revenue to public coffers.
Kramer said he doesn’t expect anything so dramatic in Contra Costa County.

“The closer you get to the Bay Area, the more stable the economies are,” he said. “There are some pockets in the county that suffered more than others, but there will not be 50,000 (homeowners).”

Following the lead of Sacramento County, Alameda County is taking a proactive stance, said chief deputy assessor Russ Hall.

Hall said the department received only about 50 requests this year, but that he was aware there were price declines in the county. Because of this, the county is looking at about 20,000 residential home sales that occurred from mid-2005 to 2006 and assessing their current value. He said the department should have the analysis finished in mid-June for the new fiscal year.

“By then I’ll have more information on what we’ve found and where we think we’re going,” he said.

But so far, there has been no rush of requests or flurry of applications, he said. Hall, who has been with the county for 25 years, said it was a far cry from the mid-1990s when people would line up in the assessor’s office, and requests for reappraisals flooded the office.

Kathy Dossa, chief appraiser for Solano County, said that before 2007, applications for reassessments were rare.

“We really haven’t had that situation occur in a while,” she said, adding that the office is now receiving some requests. “It hasn’t been an overwhelming response.”
Michael McKay, a desk clerk for the Solano County Assessor Recorder, said that he has received about 25 requests a month since January, with most of calls occurring after the first of the year.

“We will be working on (reassessing) values on an as-needed basis, not by a cut across the board like Sacramento County,” Dossa said.

Copyright © 2007, Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek, Calif.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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