On 40th anniversary of passage, Prop. 13 may see expansion

Signal file photo of the state's Capitol building in Sacramento

State legislators rejected Assemblyman Dante Acosta’s call to commemorate — and preserve — Proposition 13 on the 40th anniversary of its passage Thursday.

Acosta, R-Santa Clarita, called for the Legislature to recommit to protecting Prop. 13, the law that helps property buyers estimate their future property taxes by fixing property tax rates according to their assessed value at the time of the purchase.

Acosta’s resolution failed in the Revenue and Taxation Committee.

“I have been a vocal proponent of Prop. 13. since I took public office,” he said. “The reason behind the resolution is to highlight the protections that have helped families keep their homes longer. With a rising real estate market and property values, those can negatively affect people if they don’t have certainty on their property taxes.”

Although the committee dismissed Acosta’s resolution, Santa Clarita Realtors are advocating a reform measure on the November ballot to expand Prop. 13’s protections.

Nancy Starczyk and Bob Khalsa, who sit on the board of directors of Southland Regional Association of Realtors, were part of the push for the “Property Tax Transfer Initiative,” which allows homebuyers age 55 and older and the severely disabled to transfer their tax assessments from a prior home to a new home, no matter the new home’s market value, location or number of moves.

If the new home is a different value than the prior home, the initiative would also allow for an adjusted value between the old and new values, Starczyk said. Current law only allows one property tax transfer for most counties, leaving seniors at a loss, she said.

The impacts, if this initiative were to pass, would be that seniors could move to smaller homes at no risk and make room for newer families, she said.

“We feel that this is very beneficial to our senior citizens and wish to see Prop. 13 expanded and made easier for seniors, primarily because of the financial burden that hits this facet of our population,” Starczyk said. “I think it’s a big win-win to allow seniors to do this and make room for new families. We have a lot of buyers for whom we need to free up properties and allow families to move in. A lot of seniors have homes that are too big for them.”

The measure garnered enough signatures to make it onto the November ballot, with support from state and national Realtor associations, Starczyk and Khalsa among them.

Aside from the Property Tax Transfer Initiative that would expand protections, there are no other initiatives to change Prop. 13 as it stands.

There have been calls for a “split roll” measure to revise Prop. 13’s corporate property tax provisions and separate them from Prop. 13’s residential property tax rules, but such a measure did not make it onto the November ballot, Khalsa said.

The revisions would have taxed certain commercial and industrial property based on fair market value. Current law taxes the property based on the purchase price with limited inflation.

Commercial properties are not assessed the way residential properties are, Khalsa said, and would be at the mercy of individual appraisers’ perspectives.

“Our commercial properties in Santa Clarita are very active, and that would impact every property owner,” he said. “If taxes increased — which they would, because now they’re going to be dependent on an appraiser — then the cost to a tenant increases, and then small businesses would be negatively affected, and their customers.”

“People (in support of the split roll measure) think, ‘It’s commercial, so it doesn’t concern me,’ but it does concern them because restaurants and shops would have to change their prices,” he said.

A resolution similar to Acosta’s calling for the Legislature to commit to protecting Prop. 13 is coming together in the Senate, co-authored by 21st District Sen. Scott Wilk, said Wilk spokeswoman Eileen Ricker.

Sen. Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park, supports Wilk’s and Acosta’s efforts.

“I support Prop. 13 wholeheartedly,” Stern said, “and see no reason to change it.”

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