Low property taxes may greatly hurt counties

June 3, 2009 11:29:13 PM PDT
The depressed housing market is forcing many California counties to reassess home values, which in turn, means lower property taxes. However, what is good for your personal finances, could hurt your community.

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Home owners could save thousands this year when it comes to their property taxes. Many counties, including Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Alameda are voluntarily reassessing home values.

"We elect to do them proactively and give them the relief they are warranted under the law," says Alameda County Assessor Ron Thomsen.

In Alameda County, 125,000 homes were reassessed and 80 percent will get a lower tax bill.

The county chose to reassess homes bought between January 1, 2002 and Dec, 31, 2008. The value of the majority of those homes dropped down $145,000. According to the county assessor, that means a loss of $135 million in tax dollars.

Property tax dollars are divvied up with 40 percent going directly to schools, each city gets 15 percent and the county gets 15 percent and the rest is used for redevelopment projects. Now that the state is threatening to take from local cities to help with its deficit, Alameda County Supervisor Gaile Steele is worried about what's left.

"There's so much wrong right now that it's kind of beyond comprehension what's going happen to the communities," says Supervisor Steele.

Homeowners in the community have mixed reactions to the reassessments.

"I'm glad, jumping up and down saying 'Hallelujah.' Yes, it's about time," says Oakland homeowner Jim Brown.

"I think people should pay more taxes and I think we need more services," says Oakland homeowner Cris Hodson.

Homeowners will be notified later this month if their home's value has dropped.

Anyone who owns a home can apply for a property tax reassessment by contacting your county assessor's office.

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