The official value of all the properties in San Diego County dropped 1.56 percent in 2009, or about $6 billion, County Assessor/Recorder/Clerk Dave Butler has announced.

That means the property taxes assessed will dip for the 2010-2011 year, marking only the second time since Prop. 13 was passed in 1978 that property taxes have declined.

Last year’s historic dip was a 2.5 percent decline. Even though the years before weren’t great economic years, the assessed value and corresponding property taxes were up 4.6 percent in the fiscal year that ended in 2008, and up 9.36 percent the year before that.

Last year, the biggest reasons for the drops were a dramatic slowdown in new construction and piles of requests for reductions in property tax bills from homeowners who’ve seen their values drop.

But this year, Butler said most people who are going to get a reduction already have one. This year, the drop comes from a big shift in the index that the tax rates are tied to.

Even in a downturn, individual homeowners can see their property tax bills rise 2 percent every year to keep up with inflation. But this year, the California Consumer Price Index that tracks inflation went negative for the first time.

That meant that 664,000 of the county’s property owners — nearly 68 percent of all properties — will see a “modest decline” in their property taxes rather than the normal 2 percent increase.

“It would’ve been just about flat this year without that,” said David Butler, the county’s assessor/recorder/clerk.

This is bad news for local cities, the county and school districts. Local governments use the assessed value numbers to project growth and shortfalls in their revenues. And property taxes are a significant stream into those governments’ day-to-day operating funds.

The cities with the biggest drops were Chula Vista and Imperial Beach, each with drops of more than 3 percent compared to their value in 2008.

Del Mar, Coronado and Encinitas were the only cities in the county to see value (and thus revenue) increases from the year before.

You can see a city-by-city breakdown here, on the third page.


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