Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone Gets High Marks for Assessment Practices and Accuracy

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Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone is accurately assessing properties in the county and is “effectively managing the workload, assessment appeals, and exemptions programs,” the State Board of Equalization concluded September 12 in an assessment practices survey report.

The BOE examined the assessment practices of the Santa Clara County Assessor’s Office for the 2021-22 assessment roll and determined that the average assessment ratio was 99.41 percent (100 percent represents perfection).

“I strongly believe the independent audit conducted by the [State Board of Equalization] provides a critical, professional examination of the appraisal practice and assessment procedures in an assessor’s office, and is designed not only to protect the integrity of the property tax system, but to encourage standardization in assessment procedures among county assessors,” Stone wrote in his official response to the report. “In addition, failure to meet these standards carries severe financial consequences.”

The BOE found that “most properties and property types are assessed correctly, and the overall quality of the assessment roll meets state standards,” and made just three recommendations for improvement:

  • Improve the new construction program by classifying wells as land – rather than structural improvements – and obtaining required information prior to granting new construction exclusions.
  • Include the value of excluded new construction in the full cash value estimate of a decline-in-value property.
  • Properly value structural leasehold improvements reported on the business property statement.

Stone said he agrees entirely with the first two recommendations and will implement them. Regarding the third recommendation, he wrote:

“We partially agree with this recommendation and will implement it as time, systems capability and resources become available. Ideally, per the recommendation, our office would compare the trended cost of leasehold structural improvements to the factored base year value; however, our current system does not automatically set or track base year values of structural leasehold improvements annually and we are not staffed sufficiently to manually calculate these values and enroll the lesser. Currently, these improvements are enrolled at their trended costs which we believe are reflective of their market value due to the transitory use of each leaseholder who has unique requirements for their specific occupancy. We contend that the characterization of these improvements as underassessed is therefore speculative.”