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County's property tax rolls hit $1-trillion mark

July 10, 2007|Susannah Rosenblatt | Times Staff Writer

Steady single-family home sales last year amid the Los Angeles area's limited mid-priced housing supply helped push the county's property tax assessment rolls over the $1-trillion mark for the first time, officials said in a report to be released today.

The county's 2006 assessed value grew by 9.3%, or $88 billion, over the previous year, despite widespread anxiety over a real estate slowdown.

The increase -- above the county's average annual growth of about 7% in the last three decades -- "kind of reinforces that property values in Los Angeles County are really not going down, and are at least stable at this point in time," Assessor Rick Auerbach said.

The bulging county coffers mean more money for city, county and school programs, Auerbach said.

However, a sluggish overall real estate market dampened growth of the county's assessed value, compared with the previous year's increase of 11%, Auerbach said.

"It's the year-to-year [changes] in the long term you always have to keep your eye on," said David E. Janssen, the county's chief executive.

Swelling property tax revenue enables the county to be more competitive in hiring nurses, sheriff's deputies and other hard-to-fill posts, add jail beds and expand anti-gang efforts, Janssen said.

"It does fund modest increases in a number of high-priority areas," he said. He expects the downward trend in property tax assessment growth to continue, projecting a 5% increase next year.

Auerbach noted that, under 1978's Proposition 13, a home in California is reassessed only when purchased by a new owner or new construction on the property takes place. Last year, each property that changed hands in the county led to an average increase of $356,000 in assessed value, more than in 2005.

"The economy is really good in Los Angeles County, especially when you compare it to other parts of California," Auerbach said. "This year we're just not feeling that same slowdown."

However, 2006 information "still reflects the last of the boom in real estate," said Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. "It also reflects a red hot" commercial real estate market, he said, even as home sales have come to a "crashing halt" compared with the boom of several years ago.

The cooling of the housing market at the end of last year will probably mean the 2007 property tax rolls "won't look nearly as robust," Kyser said. He cautioned local governments not to rely too much on property tax revenue to fund public programs as real estate growth slows further.

Kyser expects that the lackluster housing market will persist through the start of 2009.

As usual, the city of Los Angeles -- by far the largest in the county -- had the fattest tax rolls; Long Beach, Torrance, Santa Clarita and Glendale rounded out the top five. Dramatic development in the high desert led to huge jumps in assessments for Lancaster, Palmdale and Santa Clarita.

The county's assessment rolls include 2.3 million parcels and about 300,000 pieces of business equipment, boats and airplanes. The county receives about a third of property tax revenue, cities get a quarter, school districts take 20%, and community redevelopment areas and special districts combined receive 20%.

In spite of the housing market's downturn, the county's economic future looks promising, Auerbach said. In terms of property tax assessments, he said, "We still believe there will be a substantial increase next year."

susannah.rosenblatt@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Breaking a trillion

The assessed value of property in Los Angeles County increased by more than $88 billion last year, though the rate of growth was down slightly from the year before.

Los Angeles County assessed value

(In billions)

2000: $577.4

2007: $1,005.9

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Highest valued cities

(In billions)

1. Los Angeles: $383.8

2. Long Beach: $42.0

3. Torrance: $22.2

4. Santa Clarita: $21.5

5. Glendale: $21.4

6. Santa Monica: $21.2

7. Pasadena: $18.9

8. Beverly Hills: $18.2

9. Burbank: $16.9

10. Carson: $12.7

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Cities with greatest percent change (2006)

1. Lancaster: 21.1%

2. Paramount: 17.2%

3. Palmdale: 15.7%

4. Santa Clarita: 13.6%

5. Compton: 13.6%

6. Calabasas: 13.1%

7. Westlake Village: 12.8%

8. Hermosa Beach: 11.9%

9. Hawaiian Gardens: 11.6%

10. Hawthorne: 11.5%

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Source: Los Angeles County Assessor

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