I have a 4-year-old son. Sometimes I ask him to explain why he did something (usually something wrong) and he dances around the question, or just doesn’t answer it. Sometimes I can push the issue enough that I get some kind of cursory response, sometimes no matter how I ask, and how many times, I get stonewalled.
That’s kind of what’s happening in Contra Costa County.
The City of Antioch would love to find out why it has the biggest plunge in property values in Contra Costa County, but Contra Costa County Assessor Gus Kramer isn’t exactly chomping at the bit to explain why, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
In July, the Antioch City Council demanded in a two-page letter that Kramer appear before them to tell them why the city’s property tax revenue dropped $850,000, about 7 percent, after the most recent property valuation. Kramer still hasn’t shown up.
Antioch’s property value drop was a fair amount more than the next highest drop, 4.5 percent in Brentwood.
Antioch Councilman Gary Agopian, who is also a realtor, said there is concern about Kramer’s use of a computer model in the appraisal process. He agreed that some areas in the city needed to see their values drop but he added that he’s seen evidence that the computer model applied criteria that wasn’t always appropriate for specific areas.
Kramer, who was described by the Mercury News as “frosty” (and not in a delightfully cheerful talking snowman kind of way), said he doesn’t believe Agopian knows how the assessment process works. He said the city has requested data to show why the big drop occurred, but Antioch hasn’t informed him how it will pay to collect that information, because he knows he’s not paying for it. He said his job is to accurately place values on properties, not to ensure that a city is financially stable. He added that no city thanked him when they saw their assessed values rise significantly, putting plenty of money into each city’s budget.
“Instead, they sat around congratulating each other on all their hard work,” Kramer told the Mercury News. “Now that values have gone down, they are looking for a scapegoat.”
Part of what Antioch has requested from Kramer is instructions on how a homeowner may ask for a reassessment if they think their property is undervalued. Basically, they want to know how an owner can request to have their home assessed higher and thus, pay more property taxes.
Would you do that? Because I wouldn’t do that. Maybe Antioch homeowners are different than you and me.
In any event, this is all very interesting. Antioch is upset that it’s going to get less money from property taxes. Kramer is upset that he’s being questioned. It’s always worth paying attention to when different governmental bodies have conflict. We so often assume that all of these different bodies are working together (sometimes at our detriment) so it’s surprising (and sometimes a little refreshing) when we find they aren’t always on the same page.