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Assessed property values rise steadily

The assessed value of property in the county increased by $8.75 billion from Jan. 1, 2013, to Jan. 1, 2014, the San Mateo County Assessor's Office announced Friday.

Some property owners got some good news in the report: Because inflation, as measured by the California Consumer Price Index, was only 0.45 percent, assessments on properties that didn't sell or undergo new construction will only rise that much.

The assessed valuations of county property, the amounts on which property taxes are based, increased to nearly $165 billion, or 5.6 percent above last year, and the highest valuation ever.

Mark Church, the San Mateo County assessor, released figures that show total assessed value in Menlo Park is more than $12 billion (6.2 percent more than 2013); in Atherton, $8 billion (6.5 percent higher); in Woodside, nearly $5 billion (4.4 percent higher); and in Portola Valley, $2.8 billion (5.5 percent higher).

Menlo Park's valuation is based on 11,043 parcels and accounts (which are non-secured property such as airplanes, boats and business equipment). In Atherton there are 2,655 parcels and accounts; in Woodside, 2,494; and in Portola Valley, 1,823.

"The roll value continues to grow due to one of the strongest real estate markets in the state," Mr. Church said. "The number of sales remains high and new construction has more than doubled from two years ago, restoring most of the value to the roll that was lost during the Great Recession."

The California Association of Realtors reports that the median home price in San Mateo County, the price at which half the sales are above and half are below, is now $1.13 million, 18.9 percent higher than a year ago.

The increased property tax revenue in each community will not directly correlate to the increase in valuation because each government body gets a share of the overall county revenue based on its previous year's valuations, according to Terry Flinn, a special assistant to the assessor.

Since Proposition 13 was passed in 1978, the assessed value of property can go up no more than the rate of inflation as measured by the California Consumer Price Index, or CCPI, to a maximum of 2 percent a year, except for sales and new construction. This year, Mr. Church said, the CCPI increased only 0.45 percent.

This was the lowest CCPI increase in 38 years, he said, and only the seventh time since 1978 that assessments rose less the maximum 2 percent. However, Mr. Flinn said, this was the third time in the past five years that inflation has been low enough that property valuations were increased by less than the maximum 2 percent.

The county has been able to recoup much of the assessed value of properties that in earlier years had seen reductions in their assessment after showing they were worth less than the value given them by the county, either because the owner over-paid for the property or because real estate values dropped.

Mr. Flinn said that with the calendar year on which the valuations are based half over, next year should also see a jump in assessed valuations in the county. "Things seem to continue to be improving in the economy," he said.

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