It's not surprising that the tax with the longest track record is the one on Real Property. Land and structures permanently attached to the land are hard to hide from the tax collector and impossible to move to out of state or to offshore tax havens. Prop 13 sets California tax assessed value at a percentage of the price paid for Real Property and permits a yearly statutory percentage increase in assessed value. When the price of housing was skyrocketing, we Californian's were protected by Prop 13 from having tax assessed values escalating to match that volatile market. This wasn't true in some states where some lost homes they had lived in for years when their property taxes became too high to pay.


But when two of my neighbors realized their assessed value was higher than the price they could sell their homes for, their taxing experience caused something to stir within me compelling me to share some procedures I learned during my prior life in the corporate arena. My neighbors asked someone in the Assessor's office how to have their property tax assessments lowered. They were told that their Prop 13 values would be lower than current market values and my neighbors took that as the final answer although one of them had purchased her home in 2006. The information they were given is probably correct for those who purchased their homes prior to the period when property values were growing like Topsy; but it most likely will not apply to those of us who purchased property during the run-up years just prior to the 2008 housing market collapse.


The Prop 13 annual increase means that those of us who purchased homes during the inflationary period, would be paying tax on a value higher than market value except for our reliance upon the diligence of the County Assessor's Office to review our assessment value each year and adjust assessments downward as the market fell. By law, that decreasing reassessment value should be done every January and Assessment Notices with the lower value mailed out every May. If you are like my neighbors and own one of these overpriced properties but you have not been advised of a downward reassessment or if you feel the assessment is not reflective of current market value, it is your right to request a reduced assessment.


A decline in value re-evaluation is initiated on form APPLICATION FOR CHANGED ASSESSMENT and filed with the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors between July 2nd and November 30th. It begins an appeal process with an appointment before a hearing officer or a three member Assessment Appeals Board. Applicants are required to furnish documentation supporting their position. It's my experience that proof of recent comparable sales will be accepted. In other words, did similar homes in your neighborhood recently sell for a price lower than the assessment value of your home. If you need help in completing the form, you can request Publication 30 from the California Board of Equalization at www.boe.ca.gov.


It is the right of every citizen to appeal if they feel their assessment value is overstated. It's one option we have left for reduced property tax. San Bernardino County does not accept transfer of Prop 13 tax base from other counties for those of us who moved here from elsewhere in the state. No longer can senior citizens defer property taxes until the sale of their homes and the Franchise Tax Board no longer honors Homeowner and Renter Assistance Claims to provide assistance to low income and the disabled.


Don't fret about the government not having enough money to run the programs we are accustomed to. All counties have two variables to calculate the amount of property tax they need to collect. One is the assessed value. The other is the rate of tax applied to the assessment value. These work in tandem. They still hold the trump card and can raise the rates if they find it politically expedient.


My neighbors took the proper first steps. They went to the Assessor's office with their question. But not happy with the answer, they have this additional step to follow according our county website at http://www.sbcounty.gov.