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The taxman cometh, the cup runneth under

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Gross property tax revenues are expected to climb in SLO County, but a subsequent increase in delinquencies could make it a wash.

Since the housing market began to slide, more tax bills have become delinquent. The trend has been a statewide issue for about three years, but it’s now showing up in SLO County, too.

The California State Controller’s Office conducted an informal survey of delinquency rates and found that 97.5 percent of property tax bills were paid on time in 2003-04, but in the last fiscal year only 95.2 percent made it in on time.

The local numbers are less extreme, but still show a drop. In 2006-07 there was a 2.3 percent delinquency rate. In 2007-08 the rate increased to 3.5 percent.

The trend seems to have caught some off guard, particularly at the county level where property tax revenues slowed during the recent housing crash, but did not collapse like in other areas.

“We’re not immune,” said County Administrative Officer David Edge.

The Administrative Office reported that secured property tax revenues are expected to drop 1 percent this year. But assessed property values are expected to increase and the revenue loss is due to late tax bills.

“We are clearly in challenging economic times for the average person on the street and sometimes that results in bills not being able to be paid,” Edge said.

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