Keep the taxman busy

Got a little card in the mail from the Orange County tax office yesterday. The card was one of those fold-here-tear-here-do-it-in-this-order constructions that are so evocative of governments everywhere.

The card was to tell me that my request to have the assessed value of my property lowered had been denied. I applied for the reduction this year after having an appraiser come out to assess the value of the house. His estimate of its worth was substantially lower than what the county’s assessor believes. So I thought it would be a good time to remind the county that it still has the value of my property way overvalued.

Last year the property was assessed during the county’s revaluation at 30 percent higher than its appraised value. The values of a lot of houses in my neighborhood were adjusted by one-third or more. That seemed rather excessive, even for an assessment that comes around every four years.

My first attempt to get the county to see reason brought me a 3 percent reduction in the increase. My second attempt brought me nothing but a lot of wasted time spent in the county tax office waiting to go before a panel to debate that value.

That interview didn’t change a thing except my perception that someone in the county tax office is doggedly holding onto an extremely skewed view of county property values. Mistaken or not, that view is unlikely to go away unless county residents continue to apply a lot of pressure.

I know many readers probably are rolling their eyes right now and muttering that we just don’t want to go through that again – we had that Tax Revolt thing right after the revaluation, and it got us mostly nothing. But I believe residents of Orange County should be aggressive in their efforts to get their government to see reason and to make decisions that are practical. I’d like to see property owners in the county apply for a reassessment every year. You have until March 31 to do that, so why not try again next year? I intend to submit an appraisal again next year.

There’s no telling what mischief tax office workers will get up to if taxpayers don’t do something to keep them busy.
–Don Evans

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  1. Bill

     /  April 22, 2010

    They used to refer what Orange County Tax office did as a “shakedown”. This is by far the biggest rip off of taxpayer money in all my years as a resident.

    As Don said, keep applying pressure. I appealed my last decision to the State in the Fall- they are so backed up they still have not reviewed it. You need to appeal to the State every time you are rejected, too. Well worth the few minutes it takes to do so.

  2. Steve

     /  April 22, 2010


    I am puzzled.

    A few days ago, you wrote a blistering, scathing indictment of Republicans.

    Today, I read that you’re spending lots of time and effort fighting insane local tax increases, promulgated by perhaps the most entrenched single-party fiefdom in America today.

    So, what do you believe? Are you in favor of indefinite fleecing of the populace, which is what local Democrats favor and have demonstrably put into practice – or are you for rational restoration of a balance of local political power and a fairness of bearing the burden of common costs?


  3. Frank

     /  April 22, 2010

    Steve, your assumption that there are two political parties that hold different ideologies is deeply flawed, especially at the local level.

  4. Don Evans

     /  April 22, 2010


    While I am a registered Democrat, I tend to come down on the side of common sense on most issues — what is the best solution that will help the most people. I believe adhering blindly to party ideology in the face of facts and logic does more harm than anything else.

    And there are many times when I believe the politicians in both parties are not much better than thieves — it’s just that the Democrats seem to share a bit more of the loot.

  5. Mark Marcoplos

     /  April 22, 2010

    Here’s a huge tax issue that should bring everyone together.

    Each citizen in Orange County is represented by $2542 per year in the military budget.

    Based on a population of about 135,000, $343 million dollars of our money is spent annually on the military.

    The proposed 2009-10 county budget is about $178 million.

    There is absolutely no question that the Afghan War and various other military adventures are squandering money that would solve a myriad of problems at home.

  6. Bill

     /  April 22, 2010

    Mr. Marcopolos- do you have a practical solution to this huge problem you describe?

    I didn’t think so.

  7. Terri Buckner

     /  April 22, 2010

    Since there is a clear elasticity between services and property taxes, if you want your property taxes lowered, what (county-provided) services are you willing to give up?

  8. Steve

     /  April 22, 2010

    Bill: Mark Marcoplos posts a retort about how much money the feds ‘waste’ on foreign wars in pretty much every thread he’s on where people are complaining about high taxes. The general theme of his non sequiturs appear to be “if ‘they’ didn’t waste this money there, ‘we’ could have it here to waste. ” Gee, how progressive.

    Terri: Most of the property taxes I pay go to the schools. I think there’s a lot of waste there, but it’s hard to root out due to the bureaucracy (a self-fulfilling prophecy) and the money funds the illusion that the local schools are ‘better’ than elsewhere in this area, a decidedly low bar to reach. This extortive process keeps my property more desirable than it otherwise would be, so, I accept it grudgingly. I’d freeze or cut the Sheriff’s budget since those guys are just slightly better than useless to me, keep the EMS, I pay fire taxes separately so keep those, ditch the every-two-week recycling truck which is just feel-good silliness, and … I’m uncertain that I receive/use any other County services. Can you think of any? While my kids are still in school I get at least some return for my $570 a month tax bill, but it sure is hard to rationalize the bad value otherwise.

  9. Steve

     /  April 22, 2010


    Thanks for being honest about your party affiliation. It shows, a little, despite your apparently fervent economic conservatism. Most journalists don’t make a lot of money, so, I believe they tend to identify more with the political party that supposedly aligns itself with people who don’t make a lot of money, even though any objective analysis shows that this position is untrue and is simply pandering to the politics of envy. This predisposition is likely why the majority of those in media today tilt Left and further helps explains the backlash against them from the general electrorate which, overall, is far more center-right.

    You wrote: “And there are many times when I believe the politicians in both parties are not much better than thieves — it’s just that the Democrats seem to share a bit more of the loot.”

    I think you’re spot on, but would be more accurate to say ‘the Democrats share more of the loot with people you like better than who the others guys share the loot with.’

    I hold my nose and vote for whatever few conservatives with morals I can find, who I hope won’t steal as much from me as the Democrats who promise they will, or the Republicans who say they won’t and do anyway.

  10. Steve

     /  April 22, 2010


    You wrote: “your assumption that there are two political parties that hold different ideologies is deeply flawed, especially at the local level.”

    I sadly concur with your general premise, dismissing my own attempts to not be cynical, and even more so with the specific case, but perhaps not for the reason you state.

    Locally, there is but one party, and that’s been the case for many decades. This lack of political balance certainly shows, and ever more so lately. Power corrupts. Even the most strident local Marxist, er, progressive, thinks there should be a token righty or two from time to time, if for no other reason that to have somebody to blame. But nobody votes any of them in.

  11. Bill

     /  April 22, 2010

    Well said, Steve. You are a breath of fresh air in an otherwise progressive liberal smog.

  12. Nancy Oates

     /  April 22, 2010

    Steve, you’d freeze the sheriff’s budget? Do you mean to say you do not back our 76-year-old sheriff? If he’s re-elected, I fully expect he’ll need to wear his gun on a little chain around his neck so he doesn’t misplace it.

  13. Steve

     /  April 22, 2010

    Nancy, I chuckled at your assertion, despite it being politically incorrect and age-ist. Nonetheless, I base my distaste for the current Sheriff not on his age nor his sincerity, nor his demonstrated skill at firearm use, but on his performance in managing his charges.

    A local business routinely violates County (and State) environmental laws, among other regulations. The Sheriff’s underlings have flatly told me that they will not be enforcing these statutes against this business, and, that I should stop reporting the violations.

    Nancy, these are people who’ve sworn to uphold the law. And, not only don’t they, they won’t. If I didn’t do my job, what would happen? We both know the answer to that question.

    Why is it different when it happens in the Sheriff’s Department? Moreover, why is it that every time a local reporter tries to do some investigation into this business’s practices, they get told by a local official to ‘can’ the story?

  14. Bill

     /  April 22, 2010

    Could it be they are too busy going after real criminals as opposed to eco-criminals?

  15. Terri Buckner

     /  April 22, 2010

    The services I use for my decidedly lower monthly tax bill include: waste disposal (I carry mine to Ferguson Rd), animal protective services, road maintenance, and the library (county). Services that I don’t use but do not mind paying for are the health department, cooperative extension, parks and rec, social services, and aging. I have a hard time figuring out what I would cut. That’s why I think we should concentrate on economic development in order to shift the tax burden from residential to commercial.

  16. Mark Marcoplos

     /  April 23, 2010

    My suspicions are confirmed. Many tea-bagger tax critics exhibit a high degree of inconsistency and irrationality when it comes to looking at taxes across the board. Rational citizens are able to acknowledge that there are local, state, and federal expenditures that can be cut. Local tea-baggers get confused when consideration extends beyond their local property taxes.

  17. Mark Marcoplos

     /  April 23, 2010

    Here’s one for you:
    From the proposed state budget,
    “• $39 million to provide teachers with hand-held diagnostic assessment devices in grades K-3 and grade 5.”
    Doesn’t this seem like it serves the testing and education industry more than it actually provides better learning situations for students?
    Or should we just say, f*** it, we’d just waste the money locally if it was available.

  18. Terri Buckner

     /  April 23, 2010

    Actually those diagnostic devices are great aids for teachers. Good teaching adapts to the individual student, meaning that accurate assessment is vital. In the primary grades, capturing notes on students electronically allows the teacher to still have free hands to help with projects, etc. There’s a huge difference between testing and assessment.

  19. Another Steve

     /  April 23, 2010

    This thread has gotten off the central point about property tax increases in Orange County. The issue is that counties and cities continue to adhere to the belief that taxes must increase with each evaluation due to the idea that property values ALWAYS increase. That is bad reasoning. The recent economic crisis is the best case I have seen for not raising property taxes significantly. However, in Orange County we have based our county and city budgets on property tax by not allowing the business segment of our local economy to grow. Therefore we must raise property taxes whenever and as much possible in order to fund the budgets.

    The argument about wasting our tax money made above has some merit. However, the heart of the issue is that you cannot choose which services your taxes support or laws you will adhere to. Elections matter and we must use the ballot box to change officials if we do not like their decision s on how they tax us and spend our money.

    The argument over taxation is old as the republic. Washington, Adams and Hamilton favored a strong central government with the powers of taxation of the whole and Jefferson and Madison favored state and “local control” that controlled taxes (and preserved slavery). The Tea Party wrongly takes the mantle of our revolutionary ancestors and seeks to impose their concept of freedom and liberty (from taxes and central government generally) as though there was no debate about these issues among the founding fathers. The cry at the time of the Boston Tea Party was “no taxation without representation”, not “we pay no taxes we do not like“. We fought a Civil War over the issues of the primacy individual freedom vs. majority rights and federal vs. state rights. However, each generation seems to have to struggle with these controversies.