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Proposition 13 Would Exempt Seismic Upgrades From New Taxes

— While Californians are being asked to decide who will go on to the General Election in a number of races, they’ll also decide the outcome of five ballot measures. The first of these has a famous title: Proposition 13.

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This year’s Proposition 13 also deals with property taxes, but its supporters say it’s aimed at making buildings safer during earthquakes without penalizing their owners.

The supporters of this year’s Proposition 13 say the goal is to level the playing field for owners of all types of buildings who want to make seismic improvements. In the state Constitution right now the rules are inconsistent. People who make these improvements to their un-reinforced brick, cement block or adobe buildings have15 years until their property taxes are re-assessed.

The owners of other types of buildings who make similar improvements don’t get re-assessed until the property is sold. San Luis Obispo County Assessor Tom Bordonaro calls it a quirk in the law that became glaringly obvious after the 2003 earthquake that damaged Paso Robles.

“Folks were very upset that number one their building had fallen down and number two they were going to receive a reassessment for their seismic retrofitting because the buildings that went down were unreinforced masonry,” said Bordonaro.

So if Proposition 13 passes, it means earthquake safety improvements won’t prompt higher property taxes—that is, not until the property is sold. Bordonaro said property owners shouldn’t be punished for making buildings safer.

“It’s about equity, it’s about fairness, it’s about treating everybody equal under the law. And so I think there won’t be that disincentive as there was before this inequitable treatment,” said Bordonaro.

As for the fiscal effects, the state’s non-partisan legislative analyst said losses in local property tax income would be minor.

If approved by voters, the measure would make the change in the state Constitution.

There is no organized opposition to the measure, which was placed on the ballot by the state legislature.

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