The word is out from our County Assessor, Clerk Recorder Larry Ward – another round of declines for property taxes in Riverside County. This makes three straight years of dropping assessments, a year longer than the last go-around in the 90’s.
But a couple of things have changed. This year many of the dropped assessments will go to commercial properties, which are continuing to lag residential properties. When I spoke with Larry earlier this year he was hopeful there would not be a need for further reductions this year after taking property values for the county back to roughly 2002 levels last year. Indeed as we have seen from my reports, residential values have remained virtually flatlined through the past 24 months after dropping over 50% in the previous 18 months. Assessed property values for the county for 2011 will be just over $200 billion, down over 16% from their peak of $243 billion in 2008.
This will be felt next year by the county as well as our cities, who are struggling to keep services afloat. Property taxes are the single largest source of operating funds for our cities and county and a substantial and real drop as we have experienced puts a real crimp in budgets, especially following the recent state decisions to further plunder city coffers of redevelopment funds, vehicle license fees and some of the basic operating funds cities have always counted on to get by. For the county it will mean a drop of nearly $5 million in property tax revenue from their earlier estimate of $266 million, a reduction of nearly 1% from their current budget of $582 million.
A second major change from Ward’s office is in the way the changes will be reported to property owners. Every year along about this time people got used to seeing a little postcard in their mailbox telling them what next years assessed value on their home would be. This year that’s not happening. In an effort to shave $200,000 from his budget, Ward will be posting the new assessments on-line on July 15. You can review your property tax assessment at www.riversideacr.com. If you don’t have internet access, well then you’re probably not reading this but in case you know somebody who may not browse, they can obtain a written assessment by calling 951-955-6200. They could also write to
Assessor, County Clerk, Recorder Larry Ward
Riverside CA 92502-2204
One final change tis year. If you think your assessed value should be higher or lower, it might cost you to find out. There has been debate among the County Supervisors to charge a fee to challenge your assessment. Should your challenge prevail and the property re-assessed, the fee would be refunded. But if the initial assessment stands then you will forfeit that fee. This has been proposed for two reasons – first as a cost measure to help defray some of the expense of researching individual properties after the process has already been done. Second, to minimize the rash of frivolous filings that occurs every year without foundation. Appears the only time people want their home to be worth less than it actually is is for tax purposes. And while this is understandable, your ‘gut feel’ of what your home is hopefully worth for tax purposes costs the county a lot of money to show you otherwise and that is being addressed by the new fee structure. If you purchased your home after January 1, 1999, chances are Larry’s got you covered. He’s been one of the most aggressive and accurate Recorders in the state as far as making sure you aren’t over taxed.