Property values are still declining in Mono County this year, but the effect on the property tax roll is less than last year, reported Mono County Assessor Jody Henning this week.
In an update on the prospects for 2011/12 property tax collections, she stated that the overall decrease this year was 2.5%, while the year-over-year overall decrease to the 2010/11 tax roll was 6.78%. In 2010/11 Mammoth led this declining trend with a decrease in its tax roll of 8.6%; this year the number is looking more like 5%.
Good news? Maybe. According to Henning, the good news may just be that “some properties were held flat,” while the bad news is that “others had declined further depending on their location and property type.”
Last year, Henning considered 4,008 properties for a lowered property reassessment. This year, another 4,200 properties were evaluated.
Property taxes are based on assessed property values: if the assessor raises the value of the property, taxes go up. If the assessor lowers the value of the property, taxes go down. The assessor’s decision with each property is far from arbitrary. Henning factors in “market data and comparable sales centering around the [Jan. 1] lien date” to determine what a property was worth on that date.
This year the County suffered “an unprecedented number of foreclosures and re-sale transfers” not to mention the continuing decline in value of many properties still held by original owners.
In addition to the downward trend, for the last few years the Assessor’s Office has faced a unique challenge when it came to assessing, and therefore facilitating accurate tax collection, for one of the Mammoth Lakes’ largest property owners: Mammoth Mountain. The Mountain sold in 2005, but the two assessors prior to Henning didn’t enroll the new assessed value for the 2005 transfer, as it is a complex property and difficult to appraise. When Henning became Assessor, Mammoth Mountain was still paying on its old value.
So Henning sought to update what the Mountain property is worth, and what the Mountain will contribute to the tax roll. In 2009 the appraisal was completed and the Assessor’s Office enrolled the new assessed value representing the 2005 transfer. Mammoth Mountain, however, didn’t agree with the value, and appealed.
“We’re getting together soon to discuss our appraisal and theirs,” Henning said. “We’re hoping that maybe we can come to an agreement outside of the hearing process, but if we’re unable to, then the hearing will be scheduled for early spring of next year.”
According to Cyndi Myrold in the Town’s Finance Department, property tax revenue in Mammoth Lakes accounted for 21% of the Town’s General Fund revenue in 2010/11, so overall tax roll decreases, have a huge impact on the Town’s budget.
Mono County’s Office of Finance stated that property taxes supply about 29% of the General Fund, and the crest of the real estate boom in the County was in 2007/08, when the property tax roll increased by 11%. Since then, the roll has taken a nosedive to the current decrease of 2.5%. While the 2011/12 numbers may suggest that the fall is slowing, it may not have reached the bottom.