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Downside and Upside of Proposition 13

October 02, 2003

Re "Tiny Island Shows Legacy of Prop. 13's Tax Limits," Sept. 29: The disparities in property taxes paid on Lido Isle confirm what I have thought for many years: Proposition 13 is inherently unfair. How can anyone justify the fact that owners of identical houses next door to each other can pay widely differing amounts of property taxes and yet receive the same services? The only difference between the houses is when they were purchased.

When Proposition 13 was passed in 1978, the biggest justification for it was the fact that older people were being forced from their homes because of escalating property taxes. No one could deny the unfairness of that. But why should their heirs be allowed to keep the property with the low taxes in perpetuity?

Another important fact about Proposition 13 that most people do not understand is that prior to its passage, cities, counties and school districts had the ability to levy their own taxes. This allowed a large measure of local control over services and costs. After Proposition 13, virtually all of that authority went to Sacramento. It seems that a total restructuring of the tax system in California is called for. Is there a politician who has the courage to take on the task of updating the provisions of Proposition 13 and the other inequities in the tax system while protecting homeownership? I doubt it.

Mike Reardon

Fallbrook

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Before Proposition 13, county managers would pretty much present the proposed budgets they "needed" for the following year and the county boards of supervisors would simply calculate the property tax rate based on those needs and bill property owners for their share of that amount. If needs went up 5% in a year, property tax went up 5%. There was no incentive for the counties to hold down spending -- and they didn't.

Proposition 13 not only locked in the property tax the homeowner paid based on his initial purchase price but it also reined in county spending. Many, many people would have lost their homes over the years if Proposition 13 had not passed, and anyone who has owned a property for more than a couple of years will always appreciate its legacy.

Hardy Hayes

Camarillo

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If homeowners feel guilty about their low taxes due to Proposition 13, all they need to do is record a new deed "selling" the house to themselves, or a trust, at the current market value. The county tax assessor will then reassess the property and send a bill for the new tax amount.

John Atkinson

Westwood

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