L.A. County Faces a New Revenue Crisis

Tax Burden
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Tax Assessor John Noguez (who has problems with tax collection, according to the Los Angeles Times) faced a skeptical Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to explain by his department's estimate of property tax receipts for the next fiscal year are off -- $13.6 billion off.

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In December, Noguez told budget planners that county property tax receipts would grow by $18.7 billion in the coming fiscal year, based on stronger property values and new construction. In a correction that shocked the Board of Supervisors, the Noguez's March estimate cut property tax growth to a more realistic $5.1 billion.

The assessor defended the new estimate, pointing to gaps in the December data and the rapid decline of property values. The supervisors, growing testy, questioned Noguez's math, his management style, and his competence. A bewildered Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky told Noguez, "I don't mean this as an insult . . . but it appears you had no clue throughout the year."

The damage in the assessor's flawed estimate is rippling through every agency that budgets using the County Assessor's numbers: the county itself, along with cities, school districts, community college districts, and fire, library, and flood control districts. The county can expect to have $50 million less to pay for countywide services, including law enforcement. City CAO Miguel Santana, whose budgeting process is nearly over, will have to cut another $13 million from of city programs and services or see a $222 million deficit grow even more.

In frustration, the Board of Supervisors ordered the County Auditor-Controller to evaluate the assessor's office "to ensure the accurate and transparent preparation of the Los Angeles County property tax roll" through "an independent review of the Assessor's business processes, operations, and system of internal controls."

The last audit of the assessors office, according to all accounts, was several years ago

D. J. Waldie, author, historian, and as the New York Times said in 2007, "a gorgeous distiller of architectural and social history," writes about Los Angeles on KCET's SoCal Focus and 1st and Spring blogs.

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