Do You Know How to Read Your Property Tax Bill?
For most California counties, the property tax bill will show three categories of charges: General Tax Levy; Voted Indebtedness; Direct Charges and Special Assessments.
When people talk about property taxes, they are talking about the General Tax Levy. This tax is based on the assessed value of land, improvements and fixtures. This generally makes up the largest portion of the tax bill. It is the amount limited by Proposition 13.
Voted Indebtedness charges reflect repayment cost of bonds approved by the voters. Local general obligation bonds for libraries, parks, police, fire facilities and other capital improvements are repaid exclusively by property owners. The California Constitution of 1879 established the two-thirds vote for approval of these bonds.
Direct Charges and Special Assessments are charges for services related to property such as street lighting, regional sanitation, flood control etc. Proposition 218 was passed in order to give property owners a meaningful say in approving new assessments. Property owners must be informed in writing and given the opportunity to cast a protest vote on new charges before an assessment can be imposed or increased.
If you have been paying attention to your ballot every election you will be aware of the many bond and tax proposals that appear on the ballot. There are hundreds of bond and tax proposals in California every election cycle. How many are worthwhile is a debatable issue.
If you have questions about your property tax bill you can contact the Sonoma County Assessor or county tax collector. The phone number for the Auditor-Controller Treasurer-Tax Collector in Sonoma County is 707-565-2631. The address is 565 Fiscal Drive, Room 100 in Santa Rosa.
Clerk-Recorder-Assessor & Registrar of Voters
In 2001, Sonoma County merged the Clerk-Recorder and the Assessor into the combined Sonoma County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor-Registrar of Voters department.
The Assessor’s office is responsible for providing accurate and timely property assessments and for determining eligibility for various property tax exemptions and exclusions.
The County Clerk’s Office issues marriage licenses, files fictitious business name statements, processes notary bonds, handles environmental documents and performs civil marriage ceremonies. The County Clerk Division also issues certified copies of marriage, birth and death records on behalf of the County Recorder.
The Recorder’s Office maintains various land and finance documents for Sonoma County.
Typical land documents include deeds, leases, mining claims, subdivision maps, homestead declarations and records of survey.
Typical finance documents include trust deeds, notices of default, reconveyances and various liens. This division also collects the Documentary Transfer Tax when real property exchanges hands.
Registrar of Voters
The Registrar of Voters is responsible for registering Sonoma County voters and maintaining the County’s voter registration file. The Registrar conducts federal, state and local elections that are held in the county. The Registrar files candidates’ campaign statements and performs other duties related to elections.
Deva Marie Proto is the elected Clerk-Recorder-Assessor & Registrar of Voters.
It is the right of citizens to observe the election activities at the office of the Registrar. Every political group should exercise this right. The Sonoma County Republican Party has been observing the election process and count at the Registrar’s office. 14 people observed the process of election counting after the Recall Election. It was a very educational process for the observers. This process should occur in every California county. That is how mistakes are corrected and fraud is detected.