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333,000 getting property tax reductions

The Los Angeles County assessor’s office announced Monday that it has reduced assessments for 333,000 county homeowners, leading property tax revenue to drop for the first time in recent years.

As a result, the county expects to lose about $440 million in property tax revenue, a 1% decrease that county officials had anticipated.

“We were worried that it would be a lot higher,” L.A. County Assessor Rick Auerbach said.

Orange County officials also expect about a 1% decrease, with about a third of the 300,000 homes reviewed receiving reductions, according to Shaw Lin, the assessor’s management services manager.

Neighboring counties hard hit by the housing slump face far steeper decreases in property assessments. In Ventura County, officials said property tax revenue is expected to drop 5%; in San Bernardino County, nearly 8%; and in Riverside County, up to 11%.

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Riverside County officials described the drop in property tax revenue as the largest in 20 years, spurred by building booms that went bust in places such as Murrieta, Menifee and Desert Hot Springs.

“We’ve never seen a decline of this magnitude in a year,” said Peter Aldana, the county’s chief deputy assessor clerk recorder. “And we don’t see the bottom yet.”

In L.A. County, areas of new housing to the north saw the most reductions, including the Antelope Valley and Santa Clarita, Auerbach said. Eastern areas of the county also saw reductions, he said, including the Pomona and Walnut Valley areas.

“The older communities are holding their values, while the new communities go down,” said county Chief Executive William T Fujioka. “They’re balancing each other out.”

The assessor’s office by law automatically reviewed 473,000 properties purchased between July 1, 2003, and June 30, 2008, and, in some areas hit hard by the housing crisis, properties purchased since 2000. About 70% of those homeowners -- 256,000 in single family homes and 77,000 in condominiums -- will get a break on their property tax bills. The average savings is $1,400 for single family homes, $1,100 for condos. The average reduction in assessed value is $126,000 for single family homes; $96,000 for condos.

Fujioka said the 1% drop in L.A. County revenue is troubling even though his office anticipated it in the budget proposed last month.

“Local revenue is being challenged at the same time state revenue is being reduced,” Fujioka said. “We have an unprecedented confluence of problems.”

L.A. County homeowners can check to see whether their home was reviewed on the assessor’s website, but reductions will not be posted online until early July, Auerbach said.

Homeowners whose situations were not automatically reviewed this year can file for a review for free until Dec. 31. Forms are available on the assessor’s website or by calling (888) 807-2111.

Homeowners who did not receive reductions can appeal to the county’s assessment appeals board until Nov. 30. The process may be lengthy -- appeals tripled last year, Auerbach said, and by law the board has up to two years to address them.

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molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com


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