Santa Barbara County contains a wealth of land, buildings, and taxable personal property. The property tax revenues generated from these assets are vital to maintaining all county operations and public services.
Click here for an overview of the property tax cycle that involves three departments: Assessor, Treasurer Tax-Collector and Auditor-Controller.
The Assessors Office identifies, maps, inspects, and calculates assessed value for these properties (typically taxed at 1% of assessed value). Each year, the Assessors staff creates the official record of taxable property (local assessment roll), shares it with the-Auditor Controller and Tax Collector, and makes it publicly available. Real property (land and structures) is appraised (inspected and evaluated) and assessed (charged with property tax) when it is first identified or created. Certain later changes in ownership or construction may trigger a supplemental assessment, for example, change of ownership, death of a real property owner, new construction or additions; major damage or loss.
As of each lien date on January 1, declining market values, change to a charitable use, or participation in a land conservation contract may change the assessed value. Once a parcel (a unique unit of land/buildings, identified by a parcel number or APN) has been assessed, the owner may qualify by applying for certain exemptions (reductions of tax), such as owners who are veterans, seniors, disabled, low-income, living in the home as a principal residence, or using the property for non-profit or other charitable purposes. The Assessors Office can help you learn if you qualify for these or other forms of tax relief. Call (805) 568-2550 for additional information.
Personal property (business property, boats, and planes) is reassessed each year, based on the owners property statement, which are filed by April 1.
Proposition 13 is a Constitutional amendment that limits the valuation and taxation of property in California. It was passed by the voters in June, 1978. Under Proposition 13, real property is reappraised only when a change in ownership occurs, or when new construction takes place. A change in ownership occurs when there is a transfer of property, whether the transfer is a purchase, a gift, an inheritance, a foreclosure, the addition or deletion of an owner, or any other means. New construction is any improvement to property that is not normal maintenance. Proposition 13 restricts both the tax rate and the rate of increase in valuation of real property as follows:
- The maximum amount of property tax cannot exceed 1% of a property's taxable value, plus bonds approved by the voters, service fees, improvement bonds and special assessments.
- A property's original base value is its 1975-76 market value. This value is automatically increased by a maximum of 2% annually (or less if the California cost of living rate is less than 2%). A new base value is set whenever there is a change in ownership or new construction. This base value is also increased by a maximum of 2% each year.
Change in Ownership Reappraisals:
When a transfer occurs, the Assessor receives a copy of the deed and determines if a reappraisal is required under State law. If required, an appraisal is made to determine the new market value of the property as of the date of transfer. The actual sales price is a strong indicator of value, but it is not the only factor used in establishing the assessed market value. Sales of comparable properties are also indicators of value that the Assessor relies on.
The date of reappraisal is generally the recording date of the deed that transfers ownership. However, the reappraisal of property acquired by inheritance from an estate or living trust occurs as of the date of death of the former owner, not as of the date of distribution to the beneficiary. The property owner is notified of the new assessment and has the right to appeal this value. Property owners who feel that their new assessed values are incorrect should contact the Assessor to discuss the issue prior to filing a formal assessment appeal.
Preliminary Change in Ownership Report
State law requires the transferee/buyer of a property to file a "Preliminary Change in Ownership Report" with the Santa Barbara County Recorder when recording certain documents. A $20 fee will be charged if the completed form is not filed at the time of recording. If the form is not filed, the Assessor is then required to mail the property owner a further request for the same information. This form is used to assist in the appraisal of property and is not open for public inspection. The "Preliminary Change of Ownership Report" form may be obtained via our Assessor's Forms section on this website.
New Construction Reappraisal:
Copies of all building permits are forwarded to the Assessor by all permitting agencies in the County. Normal maintenance work does not create a reappraisal. In appraising new construction, the market value of the new construction is determined and is then added to the existing value of the property. The value of the existing property increases only by the amount of the addition or new construction. The property owner is notified of the value of the new construction and has the right to appeal this value. Property owners who feel that their new assessed values are incorrect should contact the Assessor to discuss the issue prior to filing a formal assessment appeal. Some types of new construction may be excluded from reappraisal:
- disaster repairs
- retrofitting of unreinforced masonry buildings
- the addition of fire sprinklers
- certain types of new construction for the residence of a disabled person
Owners who feel that their new construction may fall into these categories should contact our office.
Whenever there is a reappraisal due to a change in ownership or due to the completion of new construction, a Supplemental Assessment is issued. This assessment is in addition to the regular tax bill. The supplemental tax bill reflects the difference between the prior assessed value and the new assessment. This value is prorated based on the number of months remaining in the fiscal year, which ends June 30. If the new assessment is lower that the prior assessed value, a supplemental refund may be generated. Supplemental bills or refunds are mailed to the owner of record and not to the lender if there is an impound account. Prior to the issuance of the supplemental bill, notification of the increase or decrease in value is sent to the owner at the address of record. The owner has the right to appeal the value within 60 days of the date of the notice.
If a property owner has discussed his assessment with our office and still feels that their property is over-assessed, he or she may file a formal assessment appeal. Appeals on regular assessments must be filed between July 2 and November 30. Appeals on supplemental assessments must be filed within 60 days of the date of the Supplemental Assessment Notice.
An independent Assessment Appeals Board has been established to hear these differences in opinion on values. The Board is composed of private citizens appointed by the County Board of Supervisors. They consider all evidence presented by the property owner and the Assessor at a formal hearing. The Appeals Board then determines the value of the property in question. If the Board orders a decline in value, this reduction applies only to the tax bill for the year in which the application was filed.
All appeals must be filed with the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors at the County Administration Building, 105 East Anapamu Street Suite 406, Santa Barbara, California 93101. For more information call (805)568-2248 or to view program details and access forms on the web go to: http://www.countyofsb.org/ceo/cob/assessmentappeals.sbc
All mobilehomes purchased new after June 30, 1980, and those on permanent foundations, are subject to property taxes. As with real property, the assessed value of mobilehomes cannot be increased by more than 2% annually, unless there is a change in ownership or new construction. Unless voluntarily converted to local tax assessment, mobilehomes originally built and sold before June 30, 1980 are not subject to property taxes. Instead, license fees paid through the State Department of Housing and Community Development are required.
The Williamson Act-Agricultural Preserves
The Williamson Act Program enables local governments to enter into contracts with private landowners for the purpose of restricting specific parcels of land to agricultural or related open space use. Private land within locally designated agricultural preserve areas is eligible for enrollment under contract. The minimum term for contracts is ten years. However, since the contract term automatically renews on each anniversary date of the contract, the actual term is essentially indefinite unless the parties enter into a non-renewal of contract.