Sonoma County property tax roll grows 4 percent despite losses from October wildfires

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The value of taxable property in Sonoma County rose this fiscal year to nearly $89 billion, another record high, despite taking a $1.8 billion hit because of last year’s devastating wildfires.

The figure marks a 4 percent increase from last fiscal year, according to an annual report on the county’s property tax assessment roll released earlier this month. County officials credited the growth to the strong local real estate market, an increase in the consumer price index and the continued restoration of homes whose assessments were temporarily reduced during the recession.

This is the sixth straight year Sonoma County has reported growth in its assessment roll. But it’s the smallest growth since the 2013-2014 fiscal year, which was the roll’s first year of recovery coming out of the recession.

Bill Rousseau, the county’s clerk-recorder-assessor, said the growth will likely continue next year, but it could be even smaller. And the $1.8 billion lost because of the October wildfires, which destroyed 5,300 homes in the county, will be felt for years to come, he said.

“It’ll slowly come back,” Rousseau said in an interview. “As people start building, even if they’re not complete, every Jan. 1 we look at how far along we are and we’ll put a percentage of the prior value back on the roll. So we’ll start getting small increments next January.”

Property taxes are one of the most crucial sources of revenue for the county government. They’re expected to comprise more than half of the current fiscal year’s roughly $455 million general fund, which is the county’s main source of discretionary spending on roads and public safety, among other areas.

Tens of thousands of Sonoma County properties had their assessments temporarily reduced during the recession, with the highest seen in 2012, when some 56,000 properties were in that status, according to county officials. As of this fiscal year, that figure has dropped to less than 8,000.

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