ACA 11 aims to eliminate elected Board of Equalization members, eroding taxpayer accountability
By Tom Bordonaro
County Assessor, San Luis Obispo County
CALIFORNIA — Accountability is an ideal that is severely missing in our country today. People need to be accountable for their actions, especially when it’s about the responsibility of government to serve the people. If you believe that government owes a higher duty of accountability to taxpayers, then you will share my opposition to a recently proposed amendment to the California Constitution.
There is a proposal moving through Sacramento right now that will destroy accountability and take away your right to vote for or against the people elected to oversee California’s property tax system. Getting rid of your elected members of the state Board of Equalization (BOE) is a bad idea and a big deal.
If voters pass Assembly Constitutional Amendment 11 (ACA 11), it would eliminate the elected members of the Board of Equalization. This means that the constitutional protections of taxpayers for 144 years would be wiped away and replaced by another unelected, unaccountable, and untouchable state government bureaucracy.
We are dealing with a significant matter here. The total assessed value of all California properties is $7.1 trillion dollars, resulting in nearly $80 billion in local property tax revenues for 2022. Assessing the value of most properties is done by locally elected county assessors, with the Board of Equalization providing the rules and oversight of those elected officials. In the same way that county assessors are elected, the BOE has four elected members plus the state controller, an elected statewide constitutional officer.
Those who seek to eliminate accountability provided by elected BOE members, say that California is the only state with an elected tax board. Good for us and those who wrote the California State Constitution in 1879. Those early Californians understood that holding elected representatives accountable is much better than power in the hands of unaccountable state bureaucrats.
When you or other taxpayers have a property assessment question or a property tax problem, you deserve the best, most courteous, and timely help. Elected county assessors are often the first contact for taxpayers. Because of the checks and balances that come with being elected to positions of trust, assessors provide a valuable service to the public. In the same way, the elected representatives on the BOE report to you and they are held to a high standard of accountability for their decisions and actions.
Nearly all of us have experienced a government department that doesn’t work well — EDD and DMV come to mind as examples of inefficient, costly, bureaucratic, and unaccountable government agencies. It is impossible to believe a bunch of career, civil service, untouchable bureaucrats are going to do a better job than the small and efficient group of five elected board members at BOE. Besides, if you don’t like the way a BOE member is doing their job, you can vote them out in the next election. To me, that is accountability.