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The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors will consider repealing a property tax benefit for seniors and persons with disabilities wishing to relocate to San Mateo County at their upcoming meeting on Tuesday, February 26.

Proposition 90 provides anyone over the age of 55 with relief from Proposition 13 by allowing them to move from one county to another without undergoing a change in their basic property taxes. Proposition 90 stems from Propositions 60 and 110. Under these propositions, if a seller or spouse is over age 55 or if a seller of any age is disabled when their original residence is sold, the seller may transfer the base year value of their home to a replacement primary residence of equal or lesser value within the same county, provided certain conditions are fulfilled. Proposition 90 extended this benefit to seniors and the disabled who move to counties that adopted Proposition 90 rules.

Since Proposition 90 is a “local-option” law, each county has the option of participating. If a county has adopted a Proposition 90 ordinance, it accepts transfers of property tax base assessments from other California counties. If the county that the homeowner is moving from does not have a Proposition 90 ordinance, this does not affect the eligibility of the homeowner. At present, there are only eight counties that have adopted the Prop. 90 ordinance – Santa Clara, Alameda, El Dorado, Los Angeles, Orange, San Mateo, San Diego and Ventura.

In 2011, SILVAR REALTORS® successfully fought an attempt by Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone to eliminate the tax benefit for seniors and the disabled in Santa Clara County. Stone wanted the supervisors to eliminate Proposition 90 as a way to increase revenue, but SILVAR REALTORS® and senior residents objected to the proposal. More than 50 members from the SILVAR and the Santa Clara County Association of REALTORS® (SCCAOR) attended the county board of supervisors in June 2011 to oppose the elimination of Prop 90. Several recounted personal experiences with seniors and disabled clients who benefited from the measure, and who otherwise would not have been able to move to the county had the proposition not been in place.

In the end, the Santa Clara County supervisors listened and decided to continue to opt in on Proposition 90. “There is value to it at the personal level. We supported it then, we should support it now,” they said. The supervisors also noted, “It doesn’t feel right to take this away from the people who could use it. In the big picture, it just doesn’t feel right.”

San Mateo County’s seniors and disabled residents will be facing this dilemma when the ordinance is considered at the board of supervisors meeting next week. A majority vote by the supervisors is needed to repeal the proposition.

REALTORS® in Santa Clara County oppose a move to rescind a benefit which for more than two decades has allowed seniors and the disabled from other counties to take advantage of a tax incentive to relocate to the county. Rescinding this benefit provided by Proposition 90 could hurt seniors wishing to move and buy a home in the county.

Under Proposition 60 and 110, if a seller or spouse is over age 55 or if a seller of any age is disabled when their original residence is sold, the seller may transfer the base year value of their home to a replacement primary residence of equal or lesser value within the same county, provided certain conditions are fulfilled. Prop 90 extended this benefit to seniors and the disabled who move to counties that adopted Prop 90 rules.

The Santa Clara County Assessor’s Office wants the board of supervisors to eliminate this important senior tax benefit and rescind Prop 90 transfers as a way to increase revenue. Proponents admit any revenue increase would be “slight” at best. REALTORS® say a minimal increase in revenue does not outweigh the economic benefits these transactions bring to the county.

“Given the limited number of affected parcels, it is not a business or financial decision that motivates REALTORS® to speak out on this issue. We support preserving Prop 90 for the benefits it brings to the county and for qualified seniors and the disabled,” says Gene Lentz, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®. “The law provides an incentive for seniors to move into smaller, less expensive homes without being penalized.”

Prop 90 eases the property tax burden that otherwise could prevent seniors from moving into smaller residences, so they can be closer to children and grandchildren who reside in Santa Clara County, says Lynn Grandi-Hill, whose parents moved from San Rafael to Willow Glen in 1989.

“It was wonderful having them close by. … My children got see them more often than they would have had they stayed in San Rafael,” says Grandi-Hill.  “As much as families can stay connected and together, Prop 90 is a positive thing for society in general”

Prop 90 counteracts the “lock-in effect” created by Prop 13, which slowed the housing turnover and supply across the state. “Prop 90 helps seniors wanting to live in the county. By living here they, in turn, help the county’s economy since they will buy their groceries here, shop here, buy their gas here. They are a positive economic influence,” says Mike Sibilia, president of the Santa Clara County Association of REALTORS®.

A Southern California senior who moved to Santa Clara County to be close to his children after his wife died, says Prop 90 was a major factor in his decision to buy a house here. “I considered a number of options and I can tell you Prop 90 was big factor in my decision,” he says. “People considering rescinding it are short-sighted. It was a big savings for me, but people like me who move here also spend money here, so the county benefits too. “

Rescinding Prop 90 would reduce the number of qualified buyers considering a home in the county. Seniors are more likely to move and buy a new home once they qualify for Prop 60 and 90 benefits. A California Association of REALTORS® survey indicates 52 percent of Prop 90 transactions would not have taken place if the measure was not in effect.

Tomorrow, voters will go to the polls to decide on several elected offices and ballot measures across the state. To find if you are registered to vote or if your ballot has been received or your polling place location, please visit www.sccvote.org for Santa Clara County voters, or www.shapethefuture.org for San Mateo County voters.

Below you will find SILVAR PAC (Political Action Commitee) and California Association of REALTORS® endorsements, which are based on the best interests of homeowners, business and property rights. Most of the positions are supported by financial contributions and actively supported in part by members’ contributions to the REALTOR® Action Fund.

Measure Q, Saratoga, Two-story Limit for Commercial and Office Properties, Vote NO. If passed, Measure Q will prevent buildings in the commercial and office zoning district to exceed two stories for the next 30 years, and the only way buildings would be able to exceed two stories in the downtown core and other job centers in Saratoga is if this measure goes back to a citywide vote for approval. If approved in November, Measure Q will be devastating for Saratoga’s ability to revitalize the downtown (the Village) and bring new businesses into the city. It will also move future development away from the very place residents want it, which is downtown.

Measure E, Foothill De Anza Community College District, Vote YES. Measure E seeks a $69 per year parcel tax for six years. The revenue from this tax will supplement educational programs at both Foothill and De Anza community colleges, to counteract cuts made by the state. Both community colleges serve as vital assets to the economy, as backbones for the educational strength of northern Santa Clara County. Measure E will ensure Foothill and De Anza remain among the top community colleges in the nation.

Proposition 19, Vote NO. This is the only state proposition on which the California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.) has taken a position. If approved by voters, this proposition will legalize and tax marijuana. C.A.R. opposes Prop. 19 because it will give constitutional protections to individuals who smoke, possess and cultivate marijuana in their home, regardless of ownership, with vague and unenforceable exclusions. Specifically, if tenants wish to smoke marijuana in a rental unit, they are required to ask for permission, but there is no language in Prop. 19 to protect the landlord’s ability to refuse, nor does it say that the tenant must be granted permission. C.A.R. believes Prop. 19 is too vague regarding the tenant-landlord relationship, which will lead to many disputes and loss of control of the property owner over writing and enforcing the terms of a lease agreement.

Below is a list of candidates seeking local elected office, whom we feel believe strongly in the value of homeownership and will keep the interests of homeowners and private property rights in mind:
• Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, District 1: Mike Wasserman
• Santa Clara Valley Water District, Seat 7: Lou Becker
• Atherton Town Council: Bill Widmer and Cary Wiest
• East Palo Alto City Council: Ruben Abrica and David Woods
• Los Altos Town Council: Val Carpenter and Curtis Cole
• Los Altos Hills Town Council: John Radford, Joan Sherlock and Gary Waldeck
• Los Gatos Town Council: Steven Leonardis, Diane McNutt and Joe Pirzynski
• Menlo Park City Council: Chuck Bernstein, Rich Cline and Peter Ohtaki
• Monte Sereno City Council: Don Perry and Toni Yamamoto
• Mountain View City Council: Margaret Abe-Koga and Jac Siegel
• Saratoga City Council: Chuck Page

Remember, Election Day is tomorrow, November 2!

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