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Pilot Program To Speed Up Property Appraisals

Sonora, CA – Good news for Tuolumne County property owners. the Assessor’s Office is getting funding to hire more trained help to handle its appraisals overload.

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Assessor-Recorder Ken Caetano announced that the county is among nine California counties selected to be matching-funds grant recipients, as part of a new three-year State-County Assessors Partnership Program.

According to Caetano, the first-year funding includes $104,000 that the office will receive from the state within the next month.  The amount, along with an additional $104,000, previously promised by the Board of Supervisors, as a condition for the grant award, will bring the first-year budget total to $208,000. These monies, he says, will allow the Assessor’s Office to hire and equip two appraisers next year.

The program, Caetano says, will enhance the county property tax system to benefit the county and taxpayers, as well as the state, which receives approximately 75% of every tax dollar.

The timeline to implement the new program is a tight one, according to Caetano, as the state expects a preliminary progress report by April 15, 2015.

It was the County Assessors Association that provided the nexus for the program, according to Caetano. “We have had something like this in the past…back in the mid ‘90s, and we found that, dollar for dollar, we were bringing in more than we were spending…but after the program ‘sunsetted’ funding became very tight.”

Despite fewer new homes under construction and low property sales through the recession period, the demand for appraisals has remained high, Caetano notes. He estimates that the Assessor’s Office, currently has “somewhere in the neighborhood of 8,000 properties that need to be reviewed because they are already in the ‘decline in value’ status because they are assessed for less than they paid for, because their market value is less than they paid for the properties.”

With current Assessor’s Office staff at three appraisers, the mandate presents a daunting challenge. As Caetano states, “We’ve had to take some shortcuts and do some broad-brush mass appraisals.”

The new funding, he says, “would restore us to five [appraisers] again and allow us to take care of the workload.”

By the second year of the program, Caetano says, “we may expand some of the things we do and might be able to hire some contract people, just to do part-time work.”

Interestingly, of the 58 counties in California, only ten applied for nine available slots, and only three applied for the slots allowed for the small counties. This worked out well, according to Caetano. He adds, “Even though I am not going to be the assessor for much longer, maybe it will help the next assessor with trying to keep up with the workload!”