Stanislaus County property values fall for a fifth year

06/25/2012 2:45 PM

06/26/2012 7:14 AM

Stanislaus County property values dipped again for 2012-13 but appear to be leveling off after a five-year slide. The news means slightly lower taxes for homeowners and slightly less revenue for local governments.

"Overall, it seems to be flattening out," county Assessor Dave Cogdill Sr. said.

The regular assessment roll figures released Monday slipped 1.5 percent compared with last year, or nearly half a billion dollars. Last year's drop was 3.4 percent.

The county's total assessed value has fallen $9.5 billion, or 22 percent, since its peak in 2007-08.

Assessed value determines property taxes, which will amount to about $335 million across Stanislaus County this coming year, according to assessor's office figures.

Cogdill said that while the residential market continues to struggle, developed commercial property seems to be stabilizing.

Apartment complexes dropped in value, reflecting for some the first adjustment since the recession began, he said.

Agricultural property assessments rose slightly on the strength of higher ag rental prices, Cogdill said.

The drop in assessed value translates to about $7.5 million in savings to county taxpayers this coming year, said Assistant Treasurer-Tax Collector Jegan Raja.

Less money in property taxes will not directly affect schools, which are guaranteed minimum funding by the state. Cities and the county, however, will have to trim a little more from already stretched services.

Stanislaus County, which gets the bulk of its general fund dollars from property taxes, will have to adjust its expectations slightly downward, said Assistant Chief Executive Officer Stan Risen.

The county gets a portion of city revenues, but relies most on unincorporated land values, which rose a little.

"The long and short of it is, we think our property taxes will be down less than 1 percent, about $400,000 less than last year," said Risen, adding that's within the expected range.

Modesto fared worse

In Modesto, assessed values fell 2.5 percent over the year.

That fell fairly close to what the budget anticipates, said Steve Christensen, city financial analyst. He predicted that the general fund will get roughly $100,000 less than the $11.4 million estimated.

Property taxes account for about 1 in 8 general fund dollars in Modesto, primarily paying for fire and police services.

The assessor's office automatically reviews and adjusts property values, this year moving nearly 3 in 5 values downward. Last year, Stanislaus had the highest percentage of properties losing assessed value among California's 58 counties, Cogdill said.

He said he expects that will be the case again this year, in part reflecting a more aggressive effort by his office to review all the county's properties.

"We are kind of ground zero for reduction in property value," Cogdill said, adding that his office tries to be proactive in reducing the tax burden to match.

Property owners who would like to see how their land has been assessed can do so for free online at http://is.gd/oNxlwi.

Annual assessments may be appealed starting Monday through Nov. 30. Appeal forms are available from the Clerk of the Assessment Appeals Board online at www.stancounty. com/board/aab.shtm or in person at 1010 10th St., Suite 6700, Modesto. The phone number is (209) 525-6414. Changes to assessed valuation made after Jan. 1 will be reflected in the 2013-14 tax calculations.

Taxpayers with questions may contact the assessor's office at (209) 525-6461 or in person at 1010 10th St., second floor, Suite 2400, Modesto.

Bee reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339.

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