It is an honor to serve Los Angeles County as your Assessor. I sought election as Assessor with three goals:
I am proud of the men and women of the Assessor’s Office with whom I serve, and who conscientiously and with great dedication serve you – the public.
The Assessor’s primary job is to assess all taxable real and business property within the County. The Office of the Assessor produces an annual Assessment Roll that serves as the foundation for generating more than $17 billion in property tax revenues relied upon by County government, 88 cities, and 81 school districts. While the Office is not a tax collection department, revenue is a key by-product of its function, resulting in property tax revenues to fund vital public services such as law enforcement, health services, education, libraries, parks, and transportation.
The Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office is the nation’s largest local public property assessment agency! With 1,200 employees, it is responsible for establishing the value of over 2.4 million taxable parcels and nearly 300,000 business assessments in the County. Together, these are assessed at nearly $1.8 trillion – the largest local assessment roll in the state, if not the nation.
Property taxes, which are based on values determined by the Assessor’s Office, make up nearly 24% of the County General Fund (or nearly $5.3 billion in revenues) and are the single largest source of discretionary funds for the County.
As first promised during the 2014 campaign, my primary initiative has been the modernization of our outdated technology to ensure maximum efficiency, fairness, and accuracy in assessments.
Obsolete technology from 40 years ago, including a mainframe computer and flickering green screens, have been replaced. The old system was paper-based, inflexible, and operated on technology platforms that were inefficient for staff and challenging for property owners.
I successfully implemented a program, completed in December 2016, to digitize all 2.6 million property files that were still being associated with paper files housed in one of six separate locations throughout the County. Digitizing over 100 million documents has made it easier for employees to access documents on their computers rather than spending long periods of time locating these paper files.
The National Association of Counties (NACo) has awarded my Office their “Achievement Award” for our new “Assessor Portal” internet interface! We also were recognized by the Quality and Productivity Commission for this transformative project.
The complete technology transformation project is expected to be completed by early 2022 and will represent a new era in government assessment technology.
In addition to valuing real property, the Assessor is responsible for the valuation of business personal property – such as office equipment, furniture, and machinery.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many businesses were unable to provide services and did not use their business personal property. I provided property tax relief for these entities, especially small businesses, throughout Los Angeles County.
Additionally, in an effort to ease the burden on small businesses and increase efficiency, the Board of Supervisors in July 2016 approved my proposal to raise the minimum threshold for reporting business property – from $2000 to $5000. Prior to this change, businesses with $2000 or more of business property were required to pay property taxes on these items. The cost to process assessments under $5000, however, exceeded the revenue produced. This change increased the efficiency of the Assessor’s Office, while also providing property tax relief to over 50,000 small businesses
The property tax system is confusing, with 5 separate departments responsible for different pieces of the process. To reduce the confusion, a one-stop public service counter for all property tax issues was opened in the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, bringing together the Office of the Assessor, the Treasurer and Tax Collector, and the Auditor-Controller to help taxpayers resolve issues quickly and without being shuffled from one agency to another. No more, “It’s not my job” – your concerns are addressed all at one time in one place! Over 5600 individual taxpayers have been served over the past two years alone.
The Assessor’s Office collects a vast amount of real estate and assessment data, which is also of interest to many members of the public. At my direction, the Assessor’s Office took the lead in posting to the County’s Open Data website, publishing an unprecedented amount of property data going back 11 years. Property data is now available in an easy-to-use format and can be downloaded – all free of charge!
Following the controversy involving my predecessor, the re-establishment of staff confidence and the public’s trust have been of paramount importance. We have therefore implemented notable changes to provide safeguards which ensure the integrity and accuracy of the valuation process. These include:
New internal controls have been implemented, and the new technology system allows for greater security safeguards to prohibit unauthorized tampering or manipulation.
Taxpayers who disagree with our appraisals have the right to challenge them. However, 18,000 new applications were received in 2020, with over 40,000 cases awaiting hearings. Identifying strategies to process these appeals in a timely manner is vital to ensuring that members of the public receive fair and speedy responses.
After a comprehensive study of the appeals process, I have proposed to the Executive Office of the Board of Supervisors, which manages the Assessment Appeals Board, a number of solutions designed to reduce wait time for taxpayers. I am committed to improving this system.
It is a common misconception that the Assessor is responsible for property tax collections. In fact, that job belongs to the Treasurer-Tax Collector. The Assessor only appraises the value of property.
To clarify misconceptions such as this, guide residents in navigating the property tax system, and assist qualifying taxpayers in taking advantage of programs designed to lower their property tax burden, I created a Public Affairs Unit.
Since its inception in 2015, the Public Affairs Unit has facilitated more than 550 community and public awareness events, delivered over 200 presentations, and participated in 45 expositions. It has produced easy-to-read and easily accessed printed and digital brochures, pamphlets, documents, and reports to better inform the public about all aspects of the Assessor’s Office. Examples include Homeowners’ and disabled veterans’ exemptions; Dwelling unit replacement and value transfers within families; Non-profits with education, welfare, and charitable exemptions; Trusts and LLCs; and responses to numerous requests for information about individual properties.
As the Assessor responsible for the largest local property assessment agency in the state, I have played a leading role on important issues affecting assessors across California. Three key issues that I have addressed since 2015 include:
California assessors are responsible for the valuation of commercial aircraft. I helped lead efforts to roll back a special tax break given to the airline industry in the wake of 9/11, when many people stopped traveling by air. However, as Americans once again turned to air travel, causing ridership to be restored and producing record profits for airlines, there no longer existed a need for preferential tax treatment. Along with fellow assessors, I successfully opposed the extension of a special tax break afforded to this industry, restoring nearly $10 million in annual revenues for local governments and schools.
Some mobile home owners have been taking advantage of a loophole that permits them to convert a mobile home into a permanent structure while avoiding the payment of property taxes. Last year, the Los Angeles Times exposed one of these “non-mobile” mansions, which was sold for $5.3 million yet only paid $29 in fees in lieu of property taxes. Assessment of all property must be fair and measured by the same “yardstick” in order to ensure fairness and equity. The Assessor sponsored legislation to close this loophole but was unsuccessful in getting the bill adopted. This issue was the subject of a Los Angeles Times editorial, “Close the loophole that lets some Malibu homeowners skip out on their property taxes” (May 31, 2016, http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-rockford-20160531-snap-story.html).
Residents impacted by natural disasters, including earthquakes, fire, and flood, may be entitled to property tax relief. Current laws limit property tax relief to property owners who have been adversely impacted by natural disasters. However, these laws do not adequately address “man-made” disasters, including cases such as the Aliso Canyon methane leak and the lead contamination in LA County (Exide). As your Assessor, I sponsored state legislation (SB 1304) that would expand the discretion necessary of an assessor to provide relief to impacted property owners. The bill was vetoed by the Governor, but it served to reveal a deficiency in the law that still needs to be addressed. I will continue to work tirelessly to correct this inequity.
Assessor Prang provided leadership in a national effort to promote fairness and equality and combat racial bias in property appraisals. He worked with assessors from across the country to coordinate a plan with the White House to ensure transparency by publicizing national appraisal data.
The International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO) awarded my Office with the Certificate of Excellence in Assessment Administration (CEAA). The CEAA is awarded to those agencies which integrate best appraisal and administration practices and meet professional standards set by the IAAO. It is the highest professional honor a government assessment agency can obtain, and in receiving this honor, Los Angeles joins only 38 other jurisdictions out of more than 13,000 in the world. Los Angeles is also the first California county to receive this IAAO award. The accreditation was a year-long process that included an intense evaluation of all operational aspects of the Assessor’s Office.
According to IAAO, “Jurisdictions that earn the CEAA designation demonstrate a high level of proficiency in the assessment and appraisal disciplines to both their constituents and their peers.” This prestigious recognition reaffirms our Office’s mission to be the premier property assessment agency in the world.