[Cameron Smyth] – Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, announced Tuesday that he has introduced legislation to provide greater transparency in the process by which county assessors provide property valuations.
Recent events unfolding in Los Angeles County surrounding the alleged misconduct of the County Assessor have given rise to concerns that decreases in assessed valuation of numerous properties were given to individuals in an unethical manner.
“Los Angeles County is faced with a situation where not only is one of their key executives under investigation for unethical conduct, but that conduct has a ripple effect that ravages the planned budgets of smaller districts throughout the County,” said Smyth. “We looked at the existing law in this area and found some room for improvement to help provide some stability in budget planning.”
Under existing law, governing bodies have the authority to request that a county assessor furnish an estimate of the assessed valuation of property within their jurisdiction no later than May 15 of that fiscal year.
Assembly Bill 2210 would require the assessor to notify the governing body if the assessed valuation of property decreases by more than three percent within 30 days of the request for the estimate. AB 2210 further requires that within 15 days of notifying the governing body of this decrease, the assessor notify the Department of Finance, the board of supervisors, the governing boards of the cities within the county, and all affected school districts.
“In December, the Assessor told the Board of Supervisors that he estimated a decrease in the property tax base of about $2.6 billion,” said Smyth. “Five months later, he came back with a new estimate reflecting a decrease of $13.5 billion. The last time we saw a decrease of that magnitude was at the start of the financial crisis, and there is little evidence to suggest that the decline of the housing market in 2011 was similar to the decline in 2008 and 2009.”
Recent scandals in the cities of Bell and Vernon demonstrated the need for more transparency in local government, and Smyth has had a hand in passing a number of bipartisan bills addressing these types of situations. The brewing scandal in the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office proves that further transparency is needed to ensure that governing bodies have the appropriate information to make informed decisions when budgeting for their jurisdictions.
“Changes like this have far reaching impacts throughout our communities,” said Smyth. “Cities, school districts, district hospitals and other local agencies that rely on property tax revenue already face the challenge of adjusting their budgeting as property tax rolls are adjusted. The blindsided nature of this situation complicates matters even further for them.”
Assemblyman Cameron Smyth represents the 38th Assembly District in the California Legislature. He is the chairman of the Assembly Local Government Committee.