Proposition 13 Is “Extremely Effective Law,” BOE Assessment Expert Tells Board

“Prop. 13 is an extremely effective law,” a Board of Equalization assessment expert told the board June 25 during a discussion of the BOE’s oversight of county assessors’ offices.

David Dodson, a BOE supervisor who has spent more than 27 years reviewing local assessment practices in California, and previously worked for the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office, said he often is asked whether Proposition 13 is fair.

“You know, Prop. 13 is an extremely effective law …,” Dodson said. “On its face it is kind of unfair that one taxpayer can live next door to another and pay a much lower tax bill, but I just don’t know where California would be without Prop. 13. With the wildly escalating real estate market, … people would have been priced out of their homes by property taxes. Gentrification would happen at a faster pace.”

Without Proposition 13, Dodson said, people would have to move away from where their families grew up. There has been “an incredible amount of benefit to Prop. 13 – it is something that needs to be protected,” he added.

The assessment expert said there is a public misconception that Proposition 13 never changes. “The reality is it is continuously being changed, continuously being amended,” he said.

Dodson made the comments during a presentation on the BOE’s assessment practices survey program, which he described in detail to BOE Chair Malia Cohen, Vice Chair Tony Vazquez, Member Ted Gaines, Member Mike Schaefer, and Deputy State Controller Yvette Stowers, representing Controller Betty Yee.

The program helps keep assessment practices uniform throughout the state, and makes concrete recommendations for assessors to fix problems that are identified, Dodson said.

He added that the program faces a problem – retirements of some of the most experienced staff, who are difficult to replace.

Proposition 13 was discussed again later in the meeting, when Calaveras County Assessor Leslie Davis said there will be a “tremendous drain” on assessors if voters approve the split-roll initiative that has qualified for the 2020 ballot. The California Assessors’ Association estimates that assessors will have to hire approximately 900 new staff in a very tight timeframe, from a very small pool of qualified candidates, if the split-roll measure passes.

“I appreciate you highlighting that issue,” Cohen told Davis.

Vazquez said the assessors in his district also have expressed major concerns about the problems split-roll would cause.

In other action from the BOE’s meeting in Sacramento:

Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights Hearing Scheduled for August. The board plans to hold its annual Property Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights hearing during its August 27-28 meeting, and board members indicated they will work with staff to make sure there is a vigorous public notification effort.

San Diego County Assessor Ernie Dronenburg Honored. The board adopted resolutions honoring San Diego County Assessor Ernie Dronenburg, the Pacific Southwest Association of Realtors and the San Diego chapter of the Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals for their work in assisting disabled veterans.

Dronenburg described his office’s plan to increase the number of people who receive the property tax exemption for disabled and low-income veterans. Through a coordinated effort with local groups, the media and the BOE, they increased the number of recipients by 30 percent in one year, he said.

Butte County Assessor Honored. The board adopted a resolution honoring Butte County Assessor Diane Brown and her staff for their work in handling the Camp Fire and its aftermath.

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