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Inside Bay Area

 

June 14, 2005

 

By Laura Ernde, CORRESPONDENT

 

 

Spike in property values is a boon for local government

 

 

SAN MATEO — The Bay Area's red-hot real estate market has produced a $90 million property tax windfall for San Mateo County schools and other government agencies, County Assessor Warren Slocum's office reports.

 

The 8.75 percent increase in the assessed property value represents the largest one-year increase since the dot-com boom days. County real estate assessments grew by 12.5 percent in 2001 but have registered annual gains of 4 percent to 6 percent since then, records show.

 

Property in the county is now valued at $104 billion, or $9 billion more than last year. The 1 percent property tax and other local taxes are levied based on that assessment. Most of the money raised by the property tax goes to schools. The rest goes to counties, cities and special taxing districts.

 

Bay Area home prices have been increasing at double-digit rates. In San Mateo County, the median home price for May was $900,000, which was 18 percent higher than May 2004, according to the San Mateo County Association of Realtors.

 

Even though assessments are climbing, most county homeowners will see just a 2 percent increase in their tax bill as mandated by Proposition 13. Under the 1978 ballot measure, property tax assessments are capped unless a home is recently built or sold.

 

Homeowners who believe their assessments are too high can request an informal review. If they are still not satisfied, they can appeal the decision to an independent body, the Assessment Appeals Board.

 

After the dot-com bust, thousands of property owners asked for and received reductions in their tax bills because the market value of their homes fell dramatically.

About 1,200 of those properties still have not caught up to their pre-bust values, said Deputy Assessor Angelina Hunter.

 

Property taxes are paid in two installments, in December and in April.

 

Property owners who have questions about their assessment can call a special phone number, (650) 286-2800, during regular business hours. More information is available on the assessor's Web site at www.smcare.org.