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Homeowners getting rebate

• Reassessments net an average of $660 per house.

Posted: March 27, 2008 9:41 p.m.
Updated: May 29, 2008 5:03 a.m.
It's not just a federal stimulus check that's going to be in the mailbox this spring.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Santa Clarita homeowners are expected to receive refunds averaging around $660 per household following an ongoing reassessment of diminished local property values.

Dean D. Efstathiou, acting Public Works director for Los Angeles County, who also sits on the board of directors of the Castaic Lake Water Agency, told agency members Wednesday night to expect less revenue from re-assessed property values.

The agency collects revenue from 1 percent of assessed property values in the Santa Clarita Valley.

"The assessor is in the process of re-assessing all the properties," Efstathiou told a regular meeting of the full agency board. "A total of $1 trillion dollars in assessments is expected to drop by five to six billion dollars, meaning rebates for homeowners of about $660."

Efstathiou was reminding the board of a declaration made last week by the county assessor's office.

A week ago, county Assessor Rick Auerbach announced that his staff was in the early stages of reviewing approximately 310,000 single family homes and condos for a potential decline in value reassessment.

The assessor's staff learned a lesson from the last downturn in property values almost two decades ago and decided to address the issue first, before homeowners started filing complaints.

"In the early '90s when the bottom fell out of the housing market, we received tens of thousands of appeals by homeowners saying 'home values are not what they used to be.' We want to avoid that," Robert Knowles, press officer with the assessor's office, told The Signal Thursday.

He said most of the 310,000 homes reviewed by the assessor's office so far were in Santa Clarita, Lancaster and Palmdale.

"These are our red pockets," Knowles said about homes tagged for review. "We do it by computer and compare values to the values on the (assessor) rolls. We don't go out and look at houses.

"We looked at Santa Clarita because so many new homes are being built there. If it was going to happen anywhere it was going to happen there," Knowles said, referring to diminishing property values.

Auerbach said a review of recently sold properties was needed to ensure that no property owner was being over-assessed.

"Initially, we began looking at homes and condos that were purchased in the two-year period from July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2007, whether purchased new or as a resale, to determine if a reduction in the property tax assessment is warranted," Auerbach said in a statement.

"These properties are the highest priority because they are the cost likely to receive a value reduction."

So far, the assessor 's office has reviewed more than 67,000 properties with 41,000 being reduced an average of $66,000, which will result in a property tax savings of approximately $660 for each affected property owner.

"Because of what we've discovered in this first part of the review we will now look at properties having purchase dates going back to July 1, 2004," Auerbach said in his statement.

The $660 refunds will likely appear as credits on property tax bills.

By conducting the reassessment now, Auerbach hopes to give property owners - whose assessed values were reduced by this program by June 30 - enough time to file an appeal with the county's Assessment Appeals Board if they disagree with the amount of the reduction.

Homeowners have until November to file an appeal of their assessed value.

Owners whose properties are not included in the review and who believe their property was assessed above its actual value can make their own calculations by visiting the assessor's Web site at www.assessor.lacounty. gov or request an application by calling 888-807-2111.

Auerbach is expected to issue a final report about the review in June.


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