South Bay homeowners may get tax breaks

February 6, 2009 6:55:31 AM PST
A record number of homeowners in the South Bay may be getting a property tax break as a result of the real estate meltdown. That's good news for them, but potentially bad news for county services.

A tax break also means a drop in what's usually a person's most valuable asset. Because of declining home values, Santa Clara County is bracing for a record drop in property tax revenue, much of which helps pay for public education.

Property values have been plunging because of the souring economy and rising foreclosures, and when they dip below their previously assessed value. Under the law, this triggers a re-assessment.

The Santa Clara County Assessor's Office is now scrambling to review all homes purchased since 2000. This equates to reviewing the values of nearly half of the county's 416,000 residential properties.

The county is bracing for a record number of property-tax reductions for homeowners for the 2009-10 tax bill. Already last year, Santa Clara County lost $30 million of revenue after voluntarily lowering values on thousands of tax bills.

In Santa Clara County last year, approximately 46,000 homes had their values lowered -- on average by $75,000. The number of homes could double this year -- about 100,000 homes are expected to have their values reduced.

But with a new steep load of work and staff cuts in the assessor's office, homeowners will probably have to wait until the end of June, longer than usual, to receive their property value cards in the mail.

Related Link:

Santa Clara County Property Assessment Information System