CA: Housing Value Declines Strain County Revenues

Declining home prices are starting to slam California harder than the rest of the nation, in part due to a state law that sets a ceiling–but no floor–on property taxes.

The toll is evident here in Calaveras County, a largely rural area about 100 miles east of San Francisco. Over the past three years, it has seen among the biggest property-tax roll declines of any California county, with the total value of taxable properties down about 5% from last year–and 18% over the past three years–to $5.67 billion. Statewide, assessed values declined 1.8% last year from a year earlier, according to state data.

Calaveras’s shrinking property taxes have resulted in cuts to the sheriff’s department and public-health services, as well as an effort to cut 10% of the county’s budget for the coming year. The tax drop also has pitted the county assessor, who has lowered taxes by re-evaluating home prices, against the head of the county board of supervisors, who said the reassessments have been too aggressive.

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