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It Takes a Village to Fund a County


“The avoidance of taxes is the only intellectual pursuit that carries any reward.” —Economist John Maynard Keynes

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For those Keynesian procrastinators who have put off paying property tax until the last moment, December 10 is the deadline for writing a check to the Santa Barbara County Tax Collector, sans delinquency penalties. While most taxpayers view the obligation with trepidation, Montecito resident Dan Eidelson finds levity in the annual levy. For this former teacher, past Montecito Citizen of the Year, and avid Internet researcher, the sight of the tax bill brings renewed energy. For Eidelson, the tax tab means time to don his celluloid cuffs and get up to his elbows in tax charts, graphs, and reports from the county auditors office. (See the same reports for yourself at www.co.santa-barbara.ca.us/auditor).


For Eidelson, the tax tab means time to
don his celluloid cuffs and get up to his elbows in tax charts, graphs, and reports from the county auditors office.
Dan takes on reviewing the County Tax Assessment
and, just for fun, he separates out Montecito’s share.

What is his self-imposed task? Annually, Dan takes on reviewing the County Tax Assessment and, just for fun, he separates out Montecito’s share. Because Montecito is not a city (an idea nixed by village voters nearly 15 years ago), tax payments from the area are not isolated by the county auditor/assessor. Property taxes collected from Montecito are blended with all the other unincorporated portions of Santa Barbara County. Ten years ago, when Dan was president of the Montecito Association, he determined if he was to make a case for county service, he needed to know Montecito’s tax contributions—and he found the results absorbing. Annually, whoever owns taxable property become liable for property tax based on the assessed value of the property. The assessed value is often based on the purchase price of a property—and Montecito’s got expensive dirt.

For example, the assessed value of Ty Warner’s residential estate over looking Butterfly Beach is $119,509,665—making his annual tax bill on that property alone more than $1 million.Tack onto that his tax stipend for the nearby Biltmore Hotel, with an assessed value of $132,000,000, and you’re talking lots of Beanie Babies. Oprah’s pad seems mid-range by comparison, assessed at merely a tad over $50 million. With more than 3,000 parcels in Montecito, and very few of them valued at under $1million, it becomes clear that, from the viewpoint of the County of Santa Barbara, Montecito spells money. This year, Eidelson estimates the assessed value of Montecito property tops $6 billion dollars—$6,395,525.000 by his exact count—and he reports that’s up nearly 10 percent from last year. He uses Montecito Fire District boundaries and counts only secured properties with homeowner deductions removed Eidelson said that if Montecito were a city, it would be surpassed in assessed value by only one of the county’s eight cities—Santa Barbara (where the total is $12,287,148,000). Montecito’s assessed value would pass City of Santa Maria’s $5,960,506,000(a mere 11.5 percent of the revenue pie), Goleta’s $4,000,316,000, and Carpinteria’s $1,446,196,000. The taxes generated from Montecito property values are used throughout the county, from fixing potholes outside swanky mansions to fighting crime in poor neighborhoods. Eighty percent of the county’s discretionary revenue comes from the general fund property tax, and property taxes are the primary source of revenue for schools, counties, cities, and special districts. Montecito gets chunks back in the form of annual special district distributions to such agencies as the Montecito Fire District and the Montecito Sanitary District. Eidelson reports that countywide, the county number crunchers expect to collect $543 million for the fiscal year of 2006-07 on taxable property values of $54,271,689,357. Eidelson says he always finds his accounting inspirational. “The high demand for quality of life in Montecito is what creates a better quality of life throughout the county,” he explained, “and I find that idea pleasing, not taxing!”

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