Property owners protest tax hike |

Property owners protest tax hike

Eileen JoyceWalter and Pat Roden walk in front of their Banner Mountain home Thursday afternoon. They're protesting a $55,000 increase in the county's assessed value of their property.
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A property tax rebellion could be headed Nevada County’s way.

Local attorney Mike Lasich says he’s representing 50 to 60 property owners who feel they’ve been over-appraised by the county’s Assessor’s Office.

Lasich estimates that up to 5,000 Nevada County property owners could be in the same boat.

Proposition 13 – California’s landmark property-tax reform measure passed in 1978 – prohibited assessments from rising more than 2 percent a year.

The assessed value of Walter Roden’s home on Banner Mountain went from $235,000 last year to $290,454 this year, a 23 percent increase.

“It’s unfair taxation, no matter how you look at it,” Roden said. “I’m willing to pay my fair share, but I feel this is overreaching.”

Roden said there’s plenty of other property owners who feel the same.

“There’s 33 of us who are willing to go to court,” he said.

County Assessor Dale Flippin warned last June that property owners who bought homes between 1990 and 1998 could expect significant hikes in their 2001-2002 tax bills, due to the county’s currently strong real estate market.

Flippin said Proposition 13 established a basis for property assessment commonly known as base-year value.

But many properties in the county and throughout the state were valued lower than their Proposition 13 base-year value during the downward trend in the housing market that occurred between 1990 to 1998.

While Proposition 13 allowed the county to raise assessed values by up to 2 percent a year, Flippin said, the increase was generally not collected during years when the real estate market was down.

Now, Flippin said, the county is trying to catch up to the original Proposition 13 base-year value by adjusting appraisals as the housing market rises.

“We’ve been applying the tax code properly and consistent with the other counties of the state,” Flippin said.

An Orange County Superior #wCourt judge ruled in November that the Southern California county violated Proposition 13 law by raising the assessed value of a home by 4 percent in one year.

Orange County argued its method of assessment – used by every assessor in the state – allows appraisals to be raised beyond the 2 percent limit when recapturing tax revenues from lean years.

Judge John M. Watson ruled, however, that property values cannot be raised more than 2 percent regardless of what occurred in previous years.

The assessed value of Betty Zanardi’s Lake Wildwood home went up 25 percent this year and resulted in a $1,300 increase in her property tax bill.

“I can’t see how they can allow this after Proposition 13,” said Zanardi, who’s in her late 70s. “How can I afford this? We’re on a limited income.”

“A lot of people up here are on limited incomes, and that was the purpose of Proposition 13 in the first place, to protect people from dramatic increases,” said Lasich, who’s practiced real estate law for more than 20 years and was the county’s assistant assessor for 10 months in 1998.

Lasich voiced his concerns before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

Supervisor Elizabeth Martin said she’s received numerous calls about the property tax issue and made a motion to put the matter on a future agenda.

Board Clerk Cathy Thompson said the board will address the issue sometime in February.

“What I’m asking is for the county to notify property owners who were assessed over the 2 percent increase allowed by law that they may be entitled to a refund,” Lasich said.

Lasich said he expects the Orange County suit to eventually make it to the state Supreme Court and have far-reaching effects statewide.

“I say get on top of it now, instead of having a bunch of disgruntled property owners … to allow the county to budget for refunds if that’s what it comes to,” Lasich said.

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