California Assessors’ Association Announces Opposition to Largest Property Tax Increase in State History

SACRAMENTO, CA – The California Assessors’ Association (CAA) announced today it has voted to oppose the $12.5 billion split-roll property tax that recently qualified for the November statewide ballot. County assessors are charged with implementing many of the proposition’s provisions. As the nonpartisan body representing the elected officials responsible for administering the initiative, the CAA announced its opposition and released a study citing serious concerns with whether the measure could actually be implemented. Because of its many flaws, the measure will not achieve its stated goals – and will result in a net revenue loss for some counties – according to the CAA.

“The implementation costs and administrative issues raised by our analysis have only become more problematic due to pending budget cuts and hiring freezes which are being implemented by counties across the State. Current local budgetary realities will make implementation of the initiative extremely difficult,” CAA President Don Gaekle, assessor for Stanislaus County, said in the group’s letter to the Assembly Revenue and Taxation and Local Government Committees ahead of today’s hearing on the measure.

“In my opinion, the property tax measure as written will be impossible for assessors to implement—not just difficult but impossible,” Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone said. “County assessors will be unable to recruit, train and deploy several hundred, qualified appraisers required to accurately assess complex commercial properties. The initiative will not deliver the promised revenue to schools and local governments. This is why the California Assessors’ Association representing all 58 county assessors oppose the initiative.”

The new independent analysis of the split-roll property tax published by the CAA predicted that the estimated cost to implement the measure is more than $1 billion during the three-year phase-in period. The independent analysis also predicted a 12-fold increase in reassessments and found “the funding of additional property tax administrators would actually result in a net loss for many small counties.” An earlier analysis by the CAA estimated county assessors would need to hire up to 900 new auditors and appraisers statewide.

Assessors already have trouble filling existing vacancies because there is a very small pool of people with the specialized skills needed to accurately assess property, assessors and others testified during several State Board of Equalization hearings held in recent months. The hiring and training of 900 new government workers could take years and could lead to salary “bidding wars” for the small number of qualified candidates, driving up costs and leaving smaller counties at a hiring disadvantage.

The burdens imposed on county assessors by the initiative could have a devastating impact on their existing services provided to homeowners and other taxpayers. “Homeowners would probably experience declines in service levels as assessors reallocate staff resources to focus on the new commercial valuation and assessment appeal responsibilities triggered by a split roll,” the independent analysis found.

“Administering this massive property tax increase will require an army of new government employees and doubling my office’s budget to fulfill the measure’s mandates with no guarantee that local governments will be made whole for these increased costs,” San Bernardino County Assessor-Recorder Bob Dutton said. “Implementing the property tax measure will cost as much as $26 million in administrative costs just for my county alone. That’s likely an underestimate because my analysis doesn’t factor the measure’s complex reassessments required for agricultural improvements and increased costs for assessment appeals.”

The proposition’s many flaws, including its impact on farmers, solar energy and small businesses, are described here.