Local government agencies should prepare to tighten their belts even more. For the second consecutive fiscal year, Alameda County officials are projecting a drop in the value of the county's property tax base.
Russ Hall, chief deputy assessor for the county, said current projections have the county's assessed property roll value dropping by about 2 percent — approximately what it declined last year. Last year's drop was the county's first decline in assessed value in at least 50 years.
"It looks right now that we are facing a similar decrease to last year," said Hall, adding that it is still a projection and that nothing will be known for sure until the property roll is officially surrendered to the county at the end of June.
The decline would take the county's property tax base below $200 billion to around $199 billion. Last year, the county's property tax base dipped to about $203 billion from an assessed value of $207.2 billion in the fiscal year 2008-09.
Hall said part of the decline this year is because of the statewide inflation index. He said that instead of a positive inflation rate, there is a quarter-of-a-percent deflation, lowering assessed values.
Hall said his office will reassess more than 150,000 single-family homes. He estimates that around 75 percent will receive lower values, dragging the value of assessed property in the county down.
The decline in the property tax base will affect most public agencies, especially the county's public schools.
There are nearly a half-million taxable properties in Alameda County. The property taxes derived from the assessment roll generate revenue to support the services provided by Alameda County, its public schools, cities, redevelopment areas and special districts.
The largest percentage of each property tax dollar, 42 cents on the dollar, goes to supporting public schools. After that, 25 cents goes to special districts and redevelopment agencies, 18 cents goes to cities within the county, and the remaining 15 cents goes to the county.
For the county alone, last year's decrease in the property tax base helped lead to a $178 million funding gap in the county's $2.4 billion budget.
County officials had to resort to program cuts and job reductions to eliminate the shortfall.