For the first time since the early 1990s, many taxpayers in Santa Barbara County will be able to save some money on their property taxes, due to a lull in the housing market. Notices for property tax value reductions are being mailed to nearly 7,000 property owners, while 11,000 regular notices of value are being mailed to those with recent purchases, construction or revalues in the last year.

According to Proposition 13, a 1978 amendment to the state constitution, the taxable value of property from either its market value or base value, whichever is cheaper. The base value is usually determined by the sales price and increases at roughly a 2 percent rate per year. In recent years, because of the housing price boom in Santa Barbara, the base value was commonly used. But this year, California law will allow the temporary reduction in taxable value of property, according to the county assessor chief appraiser Rick Holly.

The county gave an example of a property reduction: A property that was purchased in 2005 for $985,000 and would have a factored base value for Jan. 1, 2007, of $1,004,700, but will be assessed at and taxes based on only $947,000. The reduction in value will save the owner of this example home about $577 in taxes for the 2007-2008 year.

While assessments are done every year, reductions are not handed out as frequently as they are this year. Single-family homes and condominiums purchased from 2004 to 2006 are the types of properties receiving most of these reductions. Lower sales prices prior to 2004 usually won’t qualify, Holly said.

Anyone with questions about their values can call (805) 568-2550. If you disagree with the valuation from the assessor’s staff, you can fill out a Request for Informal Review form, available at


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