Imperial Beach leads property tax assessment increases this year, rising 7.3 percent from 2014 levels, according to Ernie Dronenburg, county assessor, recorder and clerk.

The South Bay city’s valuations rose to nearly $1.7 billion from last year’s $1.6 billion. The county’s two biggest jurisdictions, San Diego city and county, rose by 6 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively.

The total countywide rose 5.6 percent to $457.67 billion, up from $433.3 billion last year. That percentage increase was below the 6.02 percent recorded in 2014 but higher than the 3.5 percent increase in 2013.

The assessments determine how much owners will pay in property taxes by the December and April deadlines. After deducting exemptions for homeowners and other groups, the total tax bill is expected to be more than last year’s $4.2 billion. But the increase has not yet been calculated by the county auditor and controller’s office.

The numbers represent assessments on 986,858 parcels of land, 59,775 businesses, 13,019 boats and 1,764 aircraft.


The assessment and property tax system is governed by Proposition 13, the statewide initiative that passed in 1978. That law limits property taxes at no more 1 percent of assessed valuation, plus voter-approved bond issues. The assessed value is based on the most recent sales price and cannot be increased annually by more than 2 percent or the change in the consumer price index, whichever is lower, as calculated by the state Board of Equalization.

For this year, the state board set the maximum increase at 1.998 percent — only the ninth time that the increase has fallen below the 2 percent limit. It was 0.454 percent last year, 0.753 percent in 2013 and 2 percent in 2012.

Assessments can rise higher than 2 percent if properties change hands at a higher value or improvements, such as room additions, increase the net worth. A third reason is rising market values that erase some or all of the discounts granted under another state initiative, Proposition 8. That downgrade kicks in when the real estate falls, as in the 2007-9 recession.

Dronenburg said those discounts peaked at 240,741 parcels of land in 2012 and now stand at 127,506. In 2006, before the recession hit, there were less than 500 such parcels benefiting from Proposition 8 temporary assessment adjustments.

As Proposition 8 reductions have dwindled, so have appeals to assessment decisions. They totaled 7,110 last year, down from the 2008 peak of 42,624.

In a related reversal of hard times, the assessor said the number of foreclosures through May this year totaled 762, down from 1,007 for the same period last year. The number of defaults also declined from 2,467 to 2,319 over the same period.

In a roundup of other assessment findings, Dronenburg said ownership changes have reduced the number of properties that have never changed hands since Proposition 13 passed to 45,663, 5.81 percent of all parcels of land.

La Mesa has the highest percentage of such properties, 11.85 percent, and San Marcos has the lowest, 1.81 percent.

This article was originally published in the San Diego Union Tribune and can be found HERE.