Real property values up almost 9 percent

Gilroy
– Real property values in Santa Clara County grew by almost 9
percent last year, according to unofficial numbers released by the
county assessor.
Gilroy – Real property values in Santa Clara County grew by almost 9 percent last year, according to unofficial numbers released by the county assessor.

The tax roll for real property now stands at $224 billion, up 8.83 percent from July 1, 2004, when the assessor closed the books at $205 billion.

Assessor Larry Stone cautioned that the numbers won’t be final until the end of the month, but said they point to a marked improvement over the last several years. Last year, the assessed values grew by about 4.5 percent.

“The environment is improving this year considerably over last year,” Stone said. “But it’s possible it could change.”

While commercial and residential property values continue to go up, Stone said, the county is looking at a third consecutive year of declines in business personal property.

The stagnant jobs market, he said, means companies aren’t investing in computer systems and office infrastructure that depreciates in value.

“That’s the volatile part, and Santa Clara County has a higher percentage of the roll in business personal property that any other county, because we’re Silicon Valley,” Stone said. “Everything happens in Silicon Valley first and fastest, up and down, or good and bad.”

In 2000, the county accounted for 25 percent of the state’s roll growth. Last year, it ranked 57th of 58 counties.

The total value of depreciable property in the county fell from $30 billion to $23 billion over the last two years, but Stone doesn’t expect such a dramatic decline this year.

The increase is good news for the county budget. About 61 percent of the county’s property tax revenue goes to the state to fund education. Twelve percent stays in the county.

Chief Deputy County Executive Gary Graves said the increased assessment roll is encouraging, but not nearly enough to close the county’s budget gap.

“We have to be careful about whether an increase of this magnitude is going to happen once or be sustained,” Graves said. “If you assume growth every year in the budget, and it drops, you’re in trouble.”

The county has upped the fees and penalties for delinquent payments. Graves said about 2 percent of property owners are delinquent each year. As the property roll grows, so does revenue from late charges and fees.

The assessor will announce the final roll figures after he close the books July 1.

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