The Assessor Does Not Do Assessments
While Assessor and assessment start with the same six letters, the two functions are totally unrelated and can be confusing to a property owner when reviewing the bill from the County Tax Collector that they receive in October. While the primary purpose of that bill is to collect property taxes which are based on the value of the property, California law also permits local agencies such as municipalities, sanitation districts and resort improvement districts to attach certain assessments and charges unrelated to property value to that bill. With the passage of Proposition 218 in 1996, most of these assessments must be property related and usually require voter-approval. Assessments on tax bills in this county may be general such as flood control maintenance or storm drain improvements which are usually agency-wide, i.e. a municipality or the county. There are also more limited assessments such as water and sewer availability charges, bank stabilization and landscape maintenance, etc., which are usually only for a specific subdivision. In addition, the law permits the property tax bill to be used to collect charges for sewer and other municipal type services that are based on usage.
The primary difference between assessments, done by local agencies, and property taxes, based on values established by Assessor office staff, is how the two items are calculated. Assessments are established on a per parcel basis and under Proposition 13 cannot be related to the value of the parcel. Thus the flood maintenance assessment is based on the use of the parcel, the size of the structure if commercial or industrial and the amount of vineyard acreage. A single-story, 10,000 square foot industrial building worth $500,000 pays a lesser amount than a single-story, 20,000 square foot industrial building worth $400,000 because the calculation for commercial and industrial parcels is based on runoff generated by roof coverage, not on value.
Property taxes (also known as ad valorem taxes from the Latin "by value") are calculated on the value of taxable property including land, structural improvements and vines. Once the value of property is established, Proposition 13 restricts any inflationary increase to no more than two per cent per year (the factored base year value) unless there is a change of ownership or new construction. Proposition 13 also restricts the property tax rate to one per cent of the factored base year value. Thus property with a $100,000 factored base year value (the assessed or taxable value) will pay property taxes based on one per cent of $100,000 or $1,000 in taxes for the fiscal year which runs from July 1 to June 30. In addition Proposition 13 permits voter-approved bonds to be repaid using ad valorem taxes so most property owners in Napa County see a School Bond tax amount on their tax bills. If the bond repayment rate is 0.011 per cent (11/1000 of one per cent), the tax on each $100,000 of assessed value is $11.00.
Questions regarding specific assessments should be directed to the agency responsible for that assessment (a list of phone numbers is available from the Assessor's office at (707)253-4467). Questions on assessed value should be directed to Napa County Assessor John Tuteur at 707-253-4459 (direct line)or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org