A self-proclaimed property tax reformer is making yet another attempt to convince voters to impose new caps on the annual levy.
Lynne Weaver has taken the first steps to putting a measure on the 2016 ballot that would essentially freeze property valuations at where they are now and allow in most cases for only inflationary increases. The same measure also caps total taxes on non-business properties at no more than 1 percent of their value, a move designed to ensure that taxing entities do not simply make up the difference by boosting the tax rate. For businesses the cap would be 1.5 percent.
And the measure would phase out the taxes that businesses pay annually on every piece of equipment or supplies they own, everything from the towels that hotels provide to guests and computers and desks to large metal-forming presses.
If much of that sounds familiar, it should: Weaver attempted to put similar measures on the 2008, 2010 and 2012 ballots. In each case, however, she could not get the signatures necessary to even put the issue before voters, much less have an actual campaign.
Weaver’s task is no easier this year, as her proposed constitutional amendment needs 225,963 valid signatures on petitions by next July 7. But Weaver said she’s not deterred.
“Howard Jarvis took 15 years,” she said, referring to California’s Proposition 13 approved by voters there in 1978. What Weaver is proposing is modeled after that.
“That that are worthwhile are never easy,” she said.
And Weaver said she is counting on getting some outside financial support this time to help her gather the signatures.
One difference, she said, is that prior efforts included rollbacks in home values. That led to charges her measure would end up starving schools and other levels of government heavily dependent on property taxes.
This one starts pretty much from where properties are valued now, with inflation allowed to add up to 2 percent a year.
But there is an important exception: When a property is sold, the valuation used for tax purposes would be reset to the sale price.
Weaver acknowledged that could result in two identical homes in a subdivision being assessed for tax purposes at two different rates, meaning the owners of the newly purchased home would be paying more for the exact same services. But she said those kinds of disparities already exist now.
The flip side, she said, is that when someone pays a lot more for one house in a neighborhood, that doesn’t drive up the taxable values for all the neighbors who may be living on fixed incomes. She said that provides predictability and ensures that people are not forced out of their homes because the value of the house – unrealized because there has been no sale – has gone up on paper.