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Santa Clara County offering owners chance to review fall tax bills

Those who think assessments too high can seek adjustments now

The Santa Clara County Assessor's Office is giving property owners a chance to review their assessed values proactively before the fall tax bill hits, rather than requesting a formal appeal afterwards.

Notices were mailed out Friday morning to owners of more than 460,000 commercial and residential properties in the county, according to assessor spokesman David Ginsborg. The cards list the property's current assessed value that will be used when tax bills are generated and mailed in

September.

"It's a way of letting people know before they get their tax bill," Ginsborg said. "It gives them an opportunity to come and talk to us."

Assessor Larry Stone's office sends these notices out each year. However the national recession and intertwined drop in housing prices could cause property owners to give their assessed values extra scrutiny this time around.

During this year's appraisal process, Stone's office lowered the assessed value of more than 90,000 homes in the county, by an average of $170,000. Last year, by comparison, the office reduced the value of 42,000 properties, according to Ginsborg.

The process "provides notice of what we've just done," he said, before an official bill goes out. The program is designed to reduce the number of appeals made after owners receive their bills. The appeal process is more time-consuming and costly, according to the assessor's office.

While valuation formulas are complex, people who bought homes three years ago, during a stronger real estate market, are likely candidates for a reduction, according to Ginsborg.

"If you can sell your home today for less than you bought it, you should get a reduction," he said.

Once the card arrives, the fastest way to schedule a review is at www.sccassessor.org/prop8, according to the assessor's office. The deadline for requests is Aug. 15, and the county looks at market values as of Jan. 1 of each year.

The site also includes information to help residents understand temporary assessed value reductions, and criteria for eligibility. During the review process, property owners must submit examples of similar properties that sold around Jan. 1.

Last year, 8,000 property owners requested reductions and the assessor's office approved roughly half of them.

Allecia Vermillion,Bay City News

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