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The Assessor's Office and Increased Workloads

In a letter to the Board of Supervisors, the Tax Assessor claimed undertaking the office's responsibilities were "of great concern".

An encounter with the Assessor's Office when I worked with the Board of Supervisors on a resolution in support of Proposition 15 Schools and Communities First ballot measure in the 2020 election set me on the path to insure greater transparency and accountability from the office.

Prop 15 would have amended the California State Constitution to require commercial and industrial properties, except those zoned as commercial agriculture, to be taxed based on their market value or creating a so-called "split roll". According to a study conducted by the measure's backers, San Mateo County would have netted approximately $830 million in additional property tax revenues and its residents would have received the highest per capita benefit in the state.

The Assessor’s Office was asked to provide an analysis of the ballot measure as part of the Board’s deliberative process. In his letter to the Board, Mr. Church used language parroting the California Assessors Association’s opposition to the measure on the grounds it would place an increased burden on the office.

The initiative will substantially increase the potential for assessment appeals and similarly impact...staffing, workloads, and technology, without dedicated funding sources for these new assessment appraisal responsibilities, is of great concern.

He went on to state:

There will be significant increases in assessment workloads, requiring an increase in staffing levels and improvements in appraisal technologies such as Artificial Intelligence programs.

One could debate who would bear the brunt of the increased tax bill or the specificity of measure’s wording as it relates to the 18-month lead time for the process of reassessment of properties or the provisions of loans the state was to provide to cover initial ramp up and appeals costs until new revenue were to become available. The Legislative Analyst’s Office, the California Legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal and policy advisor, in their own analysis of the constitutional initiative and reviewed provisions for supporting the ramp up and defending against appeals.

[T]he lack of clarity on the methodologies and formulas that will be used by Sacramento to determine the allocation of the increased Proposition 15 tax increment may very well result in a reallocation of San Mateo County property tax dollars to other counties in the state.

Claiming increased logistical demands of reassessing properties and defending the reassessments as being "of great concern" while disingenuously arguing that the measure did not contain dedicated funding sources does not come across as taking an unbiased position on the will of the voting public. Not knowing how taxes are determined, collected, and distributed by suggesting 'who knows what Sacramento will do with our tax dollars' should disqualify anyone from holding the office of San Mateo County Assessor.


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