September 1, 2014
Final Reports
San Mateo Courts - Civil Grand Jury

2002-2003 Report:

Assessor's Response to Revenue Enhancement Recommendations

Summary | Background | Findings | Conclusions | Recommendations| Responses

Summary:

The Grand Jury reviewed recommendations made by the State Board of Equalization (BOE) and prior grand juries to determine if the San Mateo County Assessor was actively pursuing the recommendations. The Grand Jury found that some recommendations have not been implemented

Issue: Has the San Mateo County Assessor implemented revenue enhancement recommendations of the State Board of Equalization and Grand Jury?

Background:

The Board of Equalization (BOE) oversees the assessment practices of the State’s 58 county assessors, who are charged with establishing values for approximately 12 million properties each year and ensuring that county property tax assessment practices are equal and uniform throughout the state. The BOE periodically conducts an Assessment Practices Survey to ensure the uniformity of assessment practices. In addition, the State-County Property Tax Administration Program has annually made funds available to the counties to improve property tax administration. During FY 2001-2002, San Mateo County has participated in this program, obtaining a forgivable loan of $2,200,000. These funds may not be used to supplant existing funding.

BOE recommendations made as a result of an Assessment Practices Survey frequently relate to the enhancement of existing revenues or generation of new revenues. The Grand Jury chose to investigate if the San Mateo County Assessor is vigorously implementing BOE recommendations.

In 1994 and 1999, the BOE conducted an Assessment Practices Survey of San Mateo County. The 1999 Survey results, issued in March 2001, made 26 recommendations, including 10 carried over from the 1994 survey that had not been implemented.

The Grand Jury reviewed the BOE report issued in March 2001 and interviewed principal officers of the Assessor’s Office. Only those recommendations that the Grand Jury viewed as having revenue potential were discussed. The Grand Jury also inquired about other matters that it felt might enhance revenues from property taxes. The Grand Jury did not attempt to verify the information provided.

The 2001-2002 Grand Jury made recommendations related to the length of time taken to process real property change of ownership records. The current Grand Jury reviewed the progress toward implementation of these recommendations.

Findings:

The Assessor has implemented some, but not all, of the BOE’s recommendations. Appendix A contains a list of the recommendations that have not been implemented.

The Assessor has improved the time lag for re-appraisal of residential and commercial/industrial/multi-family units since the recommendations made in the 2001-2002 Grand Jury report.

The Assessor’s office has participated in the State-County Property Tax Administration Program. According to the BOE’s 2001 report the County met the requirements to satisfy the loan forgiveness provisions of the Program.

The current grand jury found that the Assessor’s office does not cross check business licensees or sales tax permit holders to determine if holders of these licenses or permits are required to and have filed personal property tax statements. By performing such a cross check, the Assessor's office might discover businesses that have not been assessed appropriate taxes.

Conclusions:

The Assessor’s office has not actively pursued implementation of all revenue enhancement recommendations made by the BOE.


Recommendations:

  1. The Assessor’s office should prioritize its workload to address revenue enhancement opportunities.

  2. The Assessor’s office should immediately:

    1. Review and estimate the revenue potential of each BOE recommendation shown in Appendix A

    2. Estimate the cost of implementation for each BOE recommendation in Appendix A, and

    3. Identify any additional personnel and resources necessary to implement any recommendation that will return a positive cash flow to the county, and report their findings to the County Manager.

  3. The County Manager should, within thirty days following completion of recommendation 2, review the Assessor’s report and allocate any additional personnel and resources necessary to implement BOE’s recommendations.

  4. The Assessor’s office should list its actions to implement the above recommendations in its annual report and in the Outcome Based Management statements of the County budget.

  5. The Assessor’s office should immediately begin, and continue, to cross check business licensees and sales tax permit holders to determine if these license or permit holders have filed the required personal property tax statements.

Response
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