Sunday, 14 August 2022

Ford: Clarifying issues about Assessor-Recorder’s Office operations

During this election, I have refrained from reacting to inaccurate statements regarding the operations of the assessor-recorder.

I am compelled to address some key misconceptions about the office that have become unclear in this process. Please see below:

• Communication with title companies and Realtors: The Realtors and my office have established a liaison to improve communication. This has been in place for some time. My current liaison is Yvette Sloan. I have sent out different communications throughout the years. I recently sent a “white paper” to Yvette Sloan and Kim Hansen to be included in a weekly newsletter on March 19 regarding hours and title company appointments. We communicate frequently when needed with the title companies and the Realtors through the liaison or directly, regarding operational changes.

• Public records request made by Mary Benson to the Clerk to the Board and responded on April 18 by email: This request was made to the Clerk to the Board and the request questions were submitted as follows:

— Any progress reports submitted to the Lake County Board of Supervisors reporting changes in the pending number of property tax appeals, the number of months of delays currently in mailing out recorded documents, staffing vacancies.

— Any progress reports submitted to the Lake County Board of Supervisors reporting the extent of the current backlog in reassessments, if any, due to changes in property value due to market changes.

— Any progress reports submitted to the Lake County Board of Supervisors reporting the extent of the current backlog in reassessments, if any, due to property improvements.

My response and the clerk to the board’s response was the same based on the questions presented.

No response was provided because the Board of Supervisors, during my tenure, has not made any of these requests for this information. Department heads do not go before the board unless requested of the board or have business to conduct with the board, such as a contract.

In response to the 2014 Report to the California State Board of Equalization, or BOE. I submitted a final report to the Board of Equalization, on behalf of Doug Wacker, who was the prior assessor-recorder. The report relates to an audit performed by the BOE, during Doug Wacker’s tenure. Audits are performed periodically at random by the BOE. Doug did not respond to the report before leaving office. The report was then left for me to either respond on behalf of the office or not respond at all. I chose to respond on behalf of the office. The next audit from the BOE will occur, based on being chosen at random, and additional follow ups will occur at that time.

After responding to the public records request, I sent an email to all five Board of Supervisors members and the County Administrative Office on April 21 as a courtesy, providing an update on all 11 items relating to the audit. All 11 have been completed with the exception of one item, relating to performing audits, which will be completed this year.

• The assessor does not have the power to randomly reassess properties. The assessor will always be governed by the Revenue and Taxation Code of the state of California. The office is audited by the state to verify the rules were performed correctly.

• Office hours: The Assessor-Recorder’s Office is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• Vital records (birth, death and marriage certificates): Requesting a copy of a vital record in person takes approximately 15 minutes. If you send the request through the mail, the turnaround time is one to three days at time of receipt.

• Sending out original documents: After we record a document, the document is indexed, verified and a control process must be applied to ensure the original document is within the recorders database. If the process is not followed, an original document might not be found in the database when needed at a future date (Example: Searching for a copy of your deed 10 years after recorded). Our turnaround time is consistent with recorders’ offices across the state. We currently have no backlog in returning original documents.

• Appraisers must issue an opinion of value: When an appraiser performs an appraisal, the appraiser working the property issues an opinion of value. The opinion of value is not a simple average. The appraiser is responsible for the opinion of value including calculations and/or documentation to defend the opinion under their license.

• E-recording: This process has been started and is near complete. As soon as the new recording system is approved, an e-recording module will be purchased. Contract for new recording system is in process now.

• Systems: Megabyte is the premiere property tax software package throughout California, with 36 out of 58 counties using this system. Megabyte is shared by the assessor, auditor-controller and the treasurer-tax collector. Attempting to change the system will be detrimental to closing the tax roll, especially without a deep understanding of the Revenue and Taxation code.

I hope this eliminates confusion about some key operations of the office.

Richard Ford is running for a third term as assessor-recorder of Lake County, California. He lives in Lakeport.

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