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Unraveling the Mysteries of Property Taxes: Assessor’s Annual Report

Where do your property taxes go? With property taxes due on Tuesday, Dec. 10, that’s the number one question I hear from taxpayers.

The Assessor’s Annual Report answers that question. Shortly after I was elected Assessor in 1994, we began publishing this report to answer this question and much more. Ever since then our Annual Report has been a “go to” resource for public finance officials, academics, tax experts and real estate professionals, as well as for business, government and community leaders interested in real estate market trends and property values in Santa Clara County.

“The Assessor’s Annual Report is an invaluable source of assessment data and property tax information for not only myself but for the general public as well,” said Supervisor Susan Ellenberg. “The employees within the County Office of the Assessor play an integral role in putting this report together, showing a commitment to ensuring our County continues to be both transparent and accountable.”

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This year’s report, published in October, contains a special focus that looks back over the past 10 years of assessment roll information, and includes graphical illustrations that capture Silicon Valley’s unprecedented economic boom. For example, during the past year, the annual assessment roll topped $516 billion, a 6.79 percent increase over the prior year. Remarkably during the past 10 years, the assessment roll grew 70 percent, more than any time since the hyperinflation period in the early 1980’s. The budget of Santa Clara benefitted from nine consecutive years of economic growth.

Property sales and new construction were principal contributors to assessment roll growth this year. Just over 60 percent of the $32.9 billion increase in assessments was attributable to re-assessable changes in ownership. An additional $5.8 billion came from new construction and business property, i.e. machinery, equipment, computers, and fixtures. The assessed values of all other properties increased by two percent mandated by Proposition 13.

Two technology companies, Apple and Google, accounted for three percent of the total growth in assessments. The assessed value of all Apple properties increased by $271 million, and Google properties by $759 million.

Assessment roll growth is also due to mega office and commercial property developments, and major property acquisitions by iconic tech companies, including Apple, Google, LinkedIn, Adobe and Nvidia.

The major beneficiaries of property tax revenue are public schools (44 percent), community colleges (7 percent), cities (13 percent), special districts (6 percent) and the Redevelopment Trust Fund (12 percent), and the County (18 percent). On average, over 50 percent of local property tax revenue generated in Santa Clara County goes to fund public education. The amount allocated from property taxes can vary significantly for example the estimated total allocated to the Santa Clara Unified is 38 percent while the total amount for Gilroy Unified is 48 percent.

To pay your taxes and avoid the lines you can pay taxes online, eCheck payments are free and easy to complete online at http://www.sccassessor.org/optin or use the County’s mobile app at http://ow.ly/RrMf50wZyWP. To view how your property taxes are divvied up, go to: https://payments.sccgov.org/propertytax/TaxAllocation.

For residents interested in diving into the Assessor’s data, the report provides extensive assessment roll information about each of the county’s 15 cities, as well as every school district.  In addition, the report provides a list of major new construction projects and change in ownership transactions of high profile properties.

This year’s annual report also provides a digital version at https://indd.adobe.com/view/a42741db-dd71-4f89-9fd4-a52686aa15f7 to download and print the current or prior years’ reports, go to https://www.sccassessor.org/index.php/forms-and-publications/annual-report and click on Annual Reports.

And don’t forget, your property taxes are due on Dec 10!

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