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Morgan Hill
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April 14, 2021

Guest view: Who’s exempt from parcel taxes in Santa Clara County?

If you’re a homeowner, you’re about to pay your second installment of property taxes on your home. These taxes need to be paid by April 10. This assessment continues to grow longer, costlier and more confusing every year. This year my assessment has 18 taxes that are NOT the actual property tax. Many of the taxes include vague names like “CO Retirement Levy,” “Comm College Bonds” and “SCVWD Safe, Clean Water.” These parcel taxes for schools, county retirement bonds, housing and hospital bonds get tacked on to our assessment after voters approve them. 

Here are just a few of the tax measures in Santa Clara County from last November’s election that now exist on your tax assessment: Measure R (Cambrian School District), Proposition RR (Caltrain Rail Service Tax), Measure L (Campbell Union High School District Parcel Tax), Measure P (Evergreen Elementary School District Bond), Measure K (Franklin-McKinley School District Parcel Tax), Measure A (Los Gatos Create Finance Commission Initiative) and Measure J (San Jose-Evergreen Community College District Bond). 

Adding to the confusion, many of these taxes are not calculated for us anymore. This leaves the taxpayer to try to figure out the amount they need to pay for each of these subcategories of taxes. These complex new taxes—coupled with consistent new legislation—make it difficult for homeowners and housing providers to manage their property without professional assistance. This again creates another expense as a barrier to homeownership and exacerbates the Bay Area’s wealth gap.

Rising taxes are a big factor in making the cost of living higher in the Bay Area. California has one of the highest income, gasoline and sales tax rates in the United States. What most people don’t know is that property taxes raise the cost and difficulty of homeownership, which makes it harder to qualify for home loans. To qualify for a loan, most lenders require buyers to have a salary that is three times the monthly mortgage, tax, insurance payment and sometimes HOA fees. Rising property taxes are also forcing businesses to raise prices on their products and housing providers to raise rents to cover the rise in their costs.

Many people do not know that they may be exempt from some of these burdens. Some of these bonds (parcel taxes) exempt seniors because they recognize that seniors live on a limited income. These bonds also pass easier because seniors will not oppose them at the ballot box if they are exempt from paying them.

Unfortunately, the process to find and apply for these exemptions is often difficult and confusing.

Thankfully the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors has created a web page to help our seniors find and apply for these exemptions so they can more easily afford to stay in their homes. Find out if you qualify for these tax exemptions and how to apply for them by visiting www.sccaor.com/parceltax 

Johnny Khamis is a former San Jose councilman who is currently running for the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors District 1 seat.

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