Under Proposition 13, Property Tax Revenue Far Outpaces Inflation and Population Growth

Jim Rooney
Amador County Assessor.

In the past year there have been calls for the modification or elimination of Proposition13, which governs how property assessments are determined. As a county assessor, I want to stress that my main concern is getting property assessments right, without regard to revenue. But I also want to share some data concerning Proposition 13 and why I strongly support it.

Obviously, revenue from property taxes is very important to county governments and the local schools, but none of us should have to pay more in taxes because of an overspending state government with onerous local mandates.

Yearly, I gather and compile state statistics concerning property taxes. There are three key figures –based on verifiable, specific numbers – that demonstrate the strength of the revenue source from property taxes. The three figures are percentages are for population, inflation and revenue from property taxes in California over the past four decades. From 1980 through 2018, Population is up 66.47 percent.•Inflation is up 219.23 percent.•Property tax revenue is up 908.70 percent. 

This is a clear demonstration of how revenue from property taxes in California, under Proposition 13, has far outpaced inflation and population. It also demonstrates that government doesn’t have a revenue problem, but maybe has a spending problem. There are many who will say that revenue is stifled because of Proposition 13, and changes are needed. However, changes will adversely affect property owners – especially the elderly, who tend to be on fixed incomes and rely on the stability and predictability of the system under Proposition 13.

There also are many who believe that a change in the way commercial properties are assessed would be beneficial. From an administrative standpoint, a modification in the way commercial properties are assessed would be extremely difficult for many assessors, requiring substantially more staff and resources to deal with additional appraisals and ultimately more appeals. The increased frequency of assessments not only would be a substantial increase in cost to local governments, but also would be an additional cost and irritant to businesses throughout the state. The costs of increased appeals and property taxes inevitably would trickle down to the ultimate taxpayer, the consumer. 

There may be good intentions in trying to modify Proposition 13, but it is apparent that the negative aspects would far outpace any perceived positives. 

Originally published in the CalTax Newsletter

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