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Soaring Home Prices Translate to Bigger Tax Bills in Ventura County

The valuation of all assessments nears $71 billion, reflecting a record jump of more than $5 billion from the previous year.

June 28, 2003|Gregory w. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

Tax bills for Ventura County's homeowners are sure to go up next year based on an update of local property values that indicates assessed values of nearly $71 billion, up a record $5.21 billion from the current fiscal year.

Assessor Dan Goodwin this week released the fiscal 2003-2004 assessment roll, which places the value of taxable property in the county -- including homes, office buildings, factories, shopping centers, business equipment, aircraft and boats -- at $70.97 billion, up from $65.76 billion a year earlier.

"The people of California have been writing some pretty big checks for property taxes in the last several years, and they deserve credit for that," Goodwin said Friday. His office calculates values, while the treasurer-tax collector's office sends out property tax bills each October.

Taxes are collected on only about 1% of the total assessment, along with any voter-approved debt, such as school bonds. Ventura County is owed $745 million in property tax this fiscal year, and that sum is expected to climb to nearly $804 million based on the latest valuation.

Dan Hamilton, director of economics for the UC Santa Barbara Economic Forecast, said higher assessments were assured in a climate of skyrocketing home values. Ventura County's median home price -- the amount at which half sold for more, half for less -- was $387,000 in May, or $65,000 more than in the same month last year.

"In a time when the fiscal situation is deteriorating for all of California, the extra money from property taxes is the one bright spot," Hamilton said. "It may be the thing that gets us through."

Treasurer-Tax Collector Larry Matheney said that local schools should start to receive funding that reflects the new valuations beginning next January. That should soften the fallout from upcoming cuts in the state education budget.

"It isn't that the schools will be flush with cash, but they won't be hit as badly," Matheney said. "It's not going to be as bad as it might have been if values had remained flat."

Proposition 13 restricts tax valuation to a 2% annual increase unless the property has been sold, expanded or remodeled.

For that reason, about 70% of homeowners will see their tax bill rise only by 2%. Many others will face higher bills because another tax provision allows assessors to reset the value of a property as if the recession had never interrupted the 2% maximum increases.

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