In this week's cover story
, SFR explores the curious state of property tax assessments in Santa Fe. But per a story in this month's AARP Bulletin
, we're not alone. Assessments across the country are out of whack
, and correcting them may be painful.
SFR hasn't heard a peep from County Assessor Domingo Martinez since WTF?
went to print, but a handful of readers have suggested that the problem illumined therein—that property tax assessments on homes that claimed an affordable housing tax break are skyrocketing, despite a declining market—goes much deeper. And an article
by Carole Fleck in AARP's June Bulletin
confirms that. Some of the salient points from that story:The problem:
"The National Taxpayers Union, an advocacy group, says that up to 60 percent of all American homes are assessed higher than they should be."The second problem:"Officials tend to keep property taxes high to make ends meet, rather than cut services:
25 percent of American cities raised property tax rates in fiscal year 2009"—as did Santa Fe County.
Another issue, Fleck writes, is that tax assessments are subject to "bureaucratic lag,"
meaning it can take a County Assessor's office years to catch up with market values. In that scenario, some homes might end up with assessments that were accurate in 2007, when the market was good, but haven't been updated. With affordable homes in Santa Fe, though, that's not the problem. Properties are
being reassessed—it's just that their values are increasing every year, not decreasing.
And here's the money quote, from Atlanta's Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation director Barbara Payne:
"People should be receiving mass reductions across the board. This is about fair market value; it has nothing to do with the county hurting or losing money."
In other words, yes, we need property taxes; they're the biggest single income source for Santa Fe County's budget. Just not at the expense of what's fair—and correct.