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Up, up and away

It took 13 years for Stanislaus County's property tax assessment values to double from $10 billion to $20 billion. But only seven years were needed for assessments to double again to more than $40 billion.

Property tax assessments for 2007-08 soared to $42,968,669,981, which is 9.82 percent more than last year.

Just 20 years ago, assessments were less than $9.8 billion. They hit $20.6 billion in 2000.

The soaring assessments seem odd, considering the real estate slump.

But Stanislaus County Assessor Doug Harms explained the current assessment is based on what happened with real estate during 2006 when the market was better.

"While transfers of residences and housing construction declined during 2006, the rest of the real estate market remained strong. This helped offset the declines in value andresulted in an overall increase in the assessment roll," Harms said.

The assessor's office determined the value of 181,000 pieces of property, and property taxes will be based on those values.

This year's assessments could generate more than $429 million in taxes for various state and local government agencies.

For tax purposes, property assessments are limited by the provisions of Proposition 13, Proposition 8 and the Williamson Act, which is designed to preserve farmland.

Because of those laws, property often is worth far more than the assessed value.

New assessments are made when land changes ownership, buildings are constructed, property values decline or there are changes in Williamson Act values.

Owners of property that has been reassessed will be contacted by mail.

The assessed value of all other properties will be increased by 2percent, and their owners willnot be notified.

Harms said owners who believe the current value of their property is less than the assessed value can request a review by calling his office at 525-6461.

Owners can seek help in person at 1010 10th St., second floor, Suite 2400, in Modesto.

Assessments may be appealed until Nov. 30. Appeal forms are available from the clerk of the assessment appeals board at 1010 10th St., sixth floor, Suite 6700, Modesto 95354 or by calling 525-6414.

Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at jnsbranti@modbee.com or 578-2196.

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