Everyone Ends Up a Winner


Merry Christmas, Ventura County taxpayers. Your assessor just found a way to save you and the county a little bit of money--and a whole lot of hassle.

By exempting low-value property from taxation when the costs of assessment and collection exceed the tax, the county can tear up about 16,000 tax bills before they ever go into the mail. That will free up the staffs of the assessor’s and tax collector’s offices to concentrate their efforts on more productive pursuits.

Assessor Dan Goodwin noticed that his staff was spending about 11% of its time dealing with properties worth less than $2,000 apiece. Many of those accounts were small businesses, some with assets consisting of a few lawn mowers or just a computer and file cabinet. Others were small boats or JetSkis, the kind of assets some counties don’t bother taxing at all.


Together, the taxes on all 16,000 accounts added up to far less than 1% of the county’s assessed property. So Goodwin decided to take advantage of a state law that allows counties to exempt low-value property. The Board of Supervisors endorsed his plan last week.

The result: Beginning with next year’s assessments and the following year’s tax bills, fewer Ventura County residents will need to spend time filling out forms for nickel-and-dime taxes on low-value assets. The staffs of the assessor’s and tax collector’s offices will stop wasting time on accounts that cost more to collect than they bring in. And without adding staff or increasing the department budget, more attention can be paid to assessing and collecting taxes on the far larger properties.

That’s the kind of creative thinking we’d like to see in other government agencies. We hear again and again that public services can only be improved by hiring more people, spending more money and adding layers of bureaucracy. It’s refreshing to see at least one county department head pinching the public’s pennies as if they were his own.