Property tax bills in San Diego County could soon increase

SAN DIEGO - Homeowners in San Diego County could soon be feeling the pain, especially if their property taxes were reduced in the past few years.

With the real estate market at a 5-year high, 10News has confirmed that tax assessors -- in the past few days -- have begun a review of property values.

"I'm not looking forward to it," said homeowner Erien Gonzalez.

After diabetes claimed his right leg, Gonzalez went on disability. Money has been tight.

"I had savings, but everything is gone," said Gonzalez, who bought a townhouse for $279,000 in College Grove at the top of the market.

When the market bottomed out, a reassessment by the county saved him more than $1,000 in annual property taxes.

Without that extra money, he'll be hurting.

"It will be a lot of pressure …," said Gonzalez.

He's not the only one that could soon be feeling the pressure.

On one hand, the climbing market is good for your home value. According to Corelogic, in the last quarter of 2011, almost 30 percent of local homes were underwater.

As values climbed, a year later, that number has dropped to 24 percent.

The flipside, however, is the rising property taxes. No matter how high the market gets, Proposition 13 caps the tax hike.

"That cap is going up a maximum of 2 percent every year," said Jeff Olson, division chief with the County Tax Assessor's Office.

The tax hike could be a lot more for more than a quarter of all properties in the county -- namely owners' properties whose taxes have been reduced by the county.

Since 2007, the county has issued some 535,000 reductions, translating into more than $55 billion in savings for property owners.

State law says those reductions are temporary.  

Tax assessors just began a close look at the numbers. They don't believe those reduced tax bills will suddenly jump to pre-reduction levels.

"Let's say a property went up 5 percent. We could increase assessment by 5 percent. It could take a number of years to get back up to the base assessment," said Olson.

The first of those increases will be seen in the upcoming tax bills, which are due out in September.

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