Inland Empire, CA: Riverside County halts mail notices of property values (Be Aware)

Riverside County has decided to discontinue next month a long-standing practice of mailing out notices of assessed-value adjustments to property owners ---- a move that is expected to save up to $200,000 per year.

Instead, the county assessor-clerk-recorder's office intends to post adjustments on its website July 15. Most of the Internet-based notices will reflect the declining home market or significant home improvements that have been made over the last 12 months.

The county's cost-saving measure means most owners of homes and other private property will be able to find out what their adjusted values are ---- which determine the amount of property taxes they will pay later in the year ---- several days earlier than they have in the past.

"It's much quicker than having to wait for us to mail out a post card," said Michele Martinez-Barrera, principal auditor-appraiser, in a telephone interview last week. "This way, you can log on and get your value immediately."

However, the change also means residents who do not have computers will need to make an extra effort to find out whether their assessed values have been adjusted, because notices no longer will arrive in their mailboxes automatically. Martinez-Barrera suggested they go to local libraries or senior centers, which tend to provide Internet access.

Not everyone is a fan of the change.

"Not all seniors have the capability to go online and look up their property assessments," said Chuck Reutter, who lives in the Sun City portion of Menifee and is president of the Menifee-Perris Valley Democratic Club. "To ignore those people, I don't know if it is a good idea. I think they made a mistake."

The change was approved last week by the county Board of Supervisors.

Reutter, who is 71, said he has a computer. But he said a lot of people in Sun City and other senior communities do not.

Some can't afford computers. Others just don't like them, he said.

Many others are not going to want to go down to the local senior center or library to get on a computer, he said, or won't be able to because of their health.

The county says it is prepared to deal with situations that arise.

"If you're homebound and can't get to those places, you can call us," Martinez-Barrera said.

She said the county still will mail out the traditional notices upon request. And she said anyone can make such a request.

"You don't have to be homebound," Martinez-Barrera said. "We'll honor a request if you call us."

The county typically mails out assessed-value notices over the summer, before sending out property-tax bills in October. Property taxes are paid in two installments, the first of which is due in December and the second of which is due the following April.

In recent years, because of plunging home values throughout Southern California, and in the Inland Empire in particular, Riverside County has been mailing more than 400,000 notices each summer at a cost of $150,000 to $200,000, Martinez-Barrera said. She said the estimated savings factors in costs for both staff labor and postage.

Martinez-Barrera said an additional 400,000 notices would have been sent out next month, had it not been for the policy change.

As it is, those notices will be posted on the Internet instead. She said the county also plans to post assessed values of the rest of the county's 900,000 private properties July 15, including those that have not been adjusted.

She said owners will be able to check by using their assessor parcel number or the property's address.

Reutter said he doesn't like that, either.

"It opens up the potential for corruption here," Reutter said.

According to a report, the county sought to address that concern by not revealing a property owner's name and mailing address.

The program was adopted under the guidelines of a new state law that allows counties to use the Internet, instead of the mail, to notify property owners of changes.

"We're trying to move with the technological advances," Martinez-Barrera said. "We're hoping in the future to move toward putting more things online for our customers."

Property owners may obtain printed notices by calling 951-955-6200, or by writing to: Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder Larry Ward, P.O. Box 12004, Riverside, CA 92502-2204.

Owners may view notices online beginning July 15 at

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