Do you think your property taxes are too high? Here’s how to appeal in SLO County

How to read your SLO County property tax assessment notice

SLO County Tax Assessor Tom Bordonaro explains how to read your property assessment form. The taxable value listed here will determine your property tax bill for the upcoming year.
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SLO County Tax Assessor Tom Bordonaro explains how to read your property assessment form. The taxable value listed here will determine your property tax bill for the upcoming year.

Most San Luis Obispo County property owners have received their property tax assessments in the mail, and if you believe your value is too high, now is the time to act.

The summertime assessments are important because they’re what the county uses to determine how much you’ll pay in property taxes this year.

County Assessor Tom Bordonaro — who during his recent re-election campaign described himself as a taxpayer advocate — said the public should know how to challenge their bills if they think something’s amiss.

But be warned: The process, which requires a small fee and hearing, can take several months.

SLO County appeals

Between July 2018 and June 2019, Bordonaro told The Tribune, his office received 245 appeals and resolved 210 of them. Of those, 46 resulted in reductions. None resulted in increased assessments.

He noted that 37 of the reductions were agreed to by the Assessor’s Office without an appeals hearing, because the property owner provided additional information the agency previously did not have.

“Once we had (the documentation), we gladly lowered the value,” Bordonaro said via email.

He said his office expects to process a similar number of appeals this year.

Information for last year’s average adjusted assessment was not readily available this week.

In July, Bordonaro reported that the total value of the county’s assessment roll increase 7% to more than $57.1 billion after exemptions. Residential properties increased in value by 5.4%.

Once residents receive their assessments in the mail, most have until Sept. 15 deadline to file an appeal.

If you believe your assessment is too high, here’s how to challenge it:

1. Contact the Assessor’s Office. If you have questions about your assessment, the first step is to first reach out to the Assessor’s Office, where representatives can explain the basis for the assessment and review any documentation you have related to the value of your property.

2. Complete an application. If Assessor’s Office staff is unable to resolve the discrepancy, you can then choose to fill out an assessment appeals application form, which is found on the assessor’s website.

appeals form.JPG
Screen grab/SLO County Assessor

Depending on what type of assessment you’re filing, certain deadlines apply.

  • If you are appealing the value of your property as of Jan. 1, 2019, the filing period is July 2 through Sept. 15.
  • If you’re appealing the value based on a notice sent to you due to a change in ownership on the property or new construction, the deadline to file is 60 days from the mailing of the notice or the postmark date of the notice or tax bill, whichever is later.
  • If you’re appealing because the assessor has changed the property value on a previous year’s roll, you must file within 60 days of the mailing of the notice or the postmark date of the tax bill, whichever is later.
  • If you’re appealing the value of a property that the assessor found was under-assessed or not assessed on a previous year’s roll, you must file within 60 days of the mailing notice or postmark date.
  • Finally, if you’re appealing a penalty such as a late filing, you must file the appeal within 60 days of the notice of penalty assessment.

Filing an appeal does not release you from their responsibility to pay your property taxes on time, and failure to do so may result in penalties and interest charges.

If you’re entitled to a return of your paid taxes when the appeal process is resolved, the Auditor-Controller’s Office will immediately issue a refund.

3. File the application. After you’ve filled out the application, you can submit it by mail or in person at the Assessor’s Office. There is an application fee of $50 per parcel.

4. Exchange information. Before the hearing, the Assessor’s Office gives you the option for a formal exchange of information that will be presented. You should submit a request to exchange information to both the Administrative and Assessor’s offices no less than 30 days prior to the hearing date. Read the State Board of Equalization’s Assessment Appeals Information Booklet online for more information.

5. Confirm the hearing. Appeals must be heard within two years from the date of the appeals application. You will be notified 45 days in advance of the hearing by the Assessment Appeals Clerk via mail. You or a representative must confirm attendance at least 21 days before the hearing, using the method designated on in the hearing notice. If not confirmed, the office will assume you will not attend, and the hearing may be rescheduled or denied.

If you need to reschedule or postpone a hearing, you must contact the assessment appeals clerk at least 21 days before the scheduled hearing.

Hearings are open to the public. The Assessor’s Office recommends you review a “Preparing for your assessment appeal hearing” guide on the Assessor’s website.

6. Attend the hearing. The Assessment Appeals Board is a quasi-judicial body composed of three members appointed by the county Board of Supervisors. At the hearing, the board hears evidence on property assessment disputes between taxpayers and the county assessor before deciding upon the assessed value of the property in question.

Upon hearing all the evidence, the board is required by law to determine the value of your property; it can increase or decrease the value of your property, or leave it the same. The board’s decision is final, and if you still disagree, your only recourse is to file a civil action against the county in Superior Court.

The board may advise you of its decision at the conclusion of the hearing or take the matter under submission. In the latter case, you will then be notified of its decision by mail at a later date.

For more information on SLO County tax assessments, call 806-781-5643 or visit https://www.slocounty.ca.gov/Departments/Administrative-Office/Services/Assessment-Appeals.aspx.

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Matt Fountain is The San Luis Obispo Tribune’s courts and investigations reporter. A San Diego native, Fountain graduated from Cal Poly’s journalism department in 2009 and cut his teeth at the San Luis Obispo New Times before joining The Tribune as a crime and breaking news reporter in 2014.