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LA County Assessor
The county assessor is an under-the-radar office that plays a big role in determining how much we pay in taxes.

What does the L.A. County Assessor do?

The county assessor plays a key role in determining how much we pay in taxes. If you own property – a home, commercial building, or farm, for example – the county assessor’s office determines how much it’s worth. That value is used to determine how much you’ll pay in taxes. (This doesn’t determine the market value for things like a sale, though – non-governmental appraisers do that.)

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It’s not a small sum: Property taxes make up about 21% of the county’s overall budget, funding services such as libraries, social workers, parks, and a lot more. The assessor doesn’t collect these taxes, though; that’s the job of the county treasurer and tax collector.

California laws (see Prop 13) make the assessment process fairly straightforward: If you buy a house, there's a formula provided by state law that determines the house’s value, your tax rate, and how much that value increases every year. Properties only get reassessed when they get sold or undergo significant changes (like getting a major upgrade, or getting burned down), so chances are you won’t encounter the assessor’s office too often. (If you ever want to know an L.A. County property’s assessed value, just type an address into this website.) Prop 13 also caps the amount your property taxes can go up in a year.

There are exceptions to this formula, such as when you’ve inherited property under certain conditions or if you’re 55 and older and selling a home to buy a new one. The assessor’s office has to track all the different rules and conditions and apply that to their assessments, too.

Sounds pretty cut-and-dried, right? It’s true that the assessor’s job is a largely administrative role, bound by lots of state rules. It doesn’t require the kind of deal-making or political maneuvering skills that other elected offices might need. As a result, proposals to make the assessor an appointed position rather than an elected one have cropped up a few times.

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But an assessor’s power can be abused. In 2012, then-L.A. County Assessor John Noguez was accused of working with a tax consultant to run a pay-to-play scheme, in which Noguez would allegedly lower property value assessments (and therefore taxes) for a select group of clients in exchange for bribes. According to federal prosecutors, that scheme cost county residents an estimated $10 million in revenue — money that would otherwise have gone to schools and services. (Noguez’s case is still ongoing in court.)

By the way, the task of making sure assessments comply with state laws and are practiced uniformly across different counties falls to the state Board of Equalization, which will also show up on your ballot this year.

What’s on the agenda for the next term?

Dealing with fallout from the pandemic. If property values are falling, owners can request a reassessment to lower the value of their property and pay less in taxes. That doesn’t apply to most homes right now – California home prices have been increasing every year since 2012, with L.A. prices jumping 11.2% in the last year alone — but since COVID wreaked havoc on hotels, restaurants, stores, and other commercial buildings, there will likely be a lot of appeals coming in from those owners that the assessor’s office will have to handle.

The assessor will also have to be prepared to implement any possible changes to our property tax laws, which could happen at any time. In 2020, there were two proposals on the statewide ballot to change the formula for property taxes. One, known as the “split roll” initiative, would have overhauled the way taxes are assessed for businesses, but did not pass. The other proposal, Prop 19, did pass. Part of it changed the rules for property taxes in cases of inheritance, generating a large backlog of assessment appeals. There’s an effort underway to roll back that part of Prop 19 via another ballot initiative – if it succeeds, that will be on the next assessor’s docket.

What can I consider in a candidate?
  • If you’re unsure what to consider as you decide who to vote for, here are some qualities that experts say are important for this role.

  • The assessor has to direct an office of more than 1,300 employees for one of the largest property tax rolls in the country, so strong management skills are a must. “What you want more than anything else is a really competent manager who understands property to some extent, and understands what the property tax law says,” said Richard Green, director of USC’s Lusk Center for Real Estate. Efficiency, timeliness, and knowing how to hire the right people to do the job are key. 

More reading

Who we spoke to for this piece

  • Dr. Richard Green, Director of the Lusk Center for Real Estate, University of Southern California
  • Robert Stern, past President of the Center for Governmental Studies

How Local Primaries Work
  • If any one candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the June primary, they will win the office outright. Otherwise, the two candidates who receive the most votes will advance to the November runoff.

There are four candidates in the race for L.A. County assessor, but it’s not a very competitive contest. Incumbent Jeffrey Prang is running for a third term and is heavily expected to win, given that his three challengers are far behind in fundraising, endorsements and campaign momentum.

Jeffrey Prang

Los Angeles County Assessor

Prang has served as L.A. County Assessor since 2014. Before that, he spent 17 years on the West Hollywood City Council, including four terms as mayor. He also held several other local government positions, including city manager for Pico Rivera and public information officer for the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.

One of Prang’s priorities as assessor has been to modernize what he’s called the office’s “1970s-era” technology to maximize its efficiency. He also says he’s overseen the digitization of more than 2.5 million property files, with “enormous volumes of data” made accessible to the public online.

In 2021, State Sen. Bob Hertzberg criticized Prang’s office over a backlog of claims related to Prop 19, legislation that gave people 55 and over more flexibility in carrying over their property tax rates to new homes. Hertzberg said the long wait times left thousands of people with higher tax bills while their claims were stuck in limbo. Prang, however, said the law as adopted was “practically unenforceable” and required huge logistical changes that required at least a year for his office to implement, rather than the few months it was given.

Three employees of the assessor’s office also filed a whistleblower lawsuit in 2019 alleging that Prang and other top employees gave favorable treatment to property owners with connections to elected officials. The employees also said they faced retaliation when they refused to comply. A spokesperson for Prang said the complaint was groundless; the lawsuit is still pending in court.

More resources:


Mike Campbell

Deputy Assessor

Campbell has been a deputy in the L.A. County Assessor’s office for the past 12 years. He says that big donors receiving special treatment on their property valuations threatens the integrity of the office and the county’s revenue stream.

If elected, he plans to create a separate unit within the assessor’s office to ensure that political contributions don’t influence property valuations. He also says he would work to “ensure Prop 13 is held in place.” (Reminder: Proposition 13 is the voter-approved law that makes it so that properties only get reassessed when they’re sold, and caps the amount that property taxes can increase every year.) …

Website: mikecampbell2022.com
Campaign finance:  No filings with L.A. County Registrar-Recorder as of early May
Endorsements: none listed

More resources:


Sandy Sun

Deputy Assessor

Sun has been a deputy assessor within the L.A. County assessor’s office for more than 20 years. She ran for L.A. County Assessor in 2018, but didn’t advance past the primary.

If elected, she would be the first woman to hold the position of Assessor in L.A. County. Though she hasn’t updated her campaign literature since 2018, her previous platforms stated that she would support state legislation to raise the homeowners’ exemption, which reduces property taxes for homeowners’ primary residences. Homeowners currently save about $70 a year with this exemption; Sun supports savings of up to $300. Sun also said she would back legislation to increase that exemption even more for disabled veterans and active servicemembers, so they could save up to $5,000 a year.

Website: sandysun.net
Campaign finance: No filings with L.A. County Registrar-Recorder as of early May
Endorsements: none listed

More resources:


Anthony Lopez

Deputy Assessor

Lopez says on his website says he has worked for the L.A. County Assessor for eight years.

He says his priorities if elected would be to "streamline department processes for greater efficiency and responsiveness." He also cites improving office culture, hiring and retention as priorities.

Website: electanthonylopez.com
Campaign finance: No filings with L.A. County Registrar-Recorder as of early May
Endorsements: none listed

More resources:

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