All About Santa Barbara Property Taxes

Maureen McDermut

A Guide To Santa Barbara Property Taxes

One of the necessary expenses of homeownership is paying property taxes. In recent years, Santa Barbara property tax has been a major discussion, as the rise in home values has also created a significant increase in taxes levied on those homes. Additionally, the introduction of Proposition 13 in California changed how taxes are assessed. So let's discuss property taxes in Santa Barbara, how they work, and what you can expect to pay when you buy a home in Santa Barbara.

Why You Should Care About Property Taxes

Property taxes are a significant consideration for homeowners, potential buyers, and investors. In Santa Barbara, these taxes fund essential local services, including public education, infrastructure maintenance, and public safety. As a homeowner in Santa Barbara, your taxes help support some of the very things that we love about the community.

How Are Property Taxes Calculated?

In Santa Barbara, property taxes are calculated based on the assessed value of the property. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of the process:

  1. Assessment of Property Value: The Santa Barbara County Assessor's Office assesses the value of all taxable property within the county. This value is generally based on the property's market value as of the date of acquisition or new construction.

  2. Base Year Value: Under California’s Proposition 13, the assessed value is capped at the property's purchase price (base year value), plus a maximum increase of 2% per year for inflation. This means that long-term property owners benefit from relatively stable property tax bills, even if their property's market value increases significantly. 

  3. Tax Rate Application: The standard property tax rate in Santa Barbara County is approximately 1% of the assessed value. Additional taxes and assessments for local bonds, special districts, and other voter-approved measures may apply, typically adding an extra 0.1% to 0.2% to the total tax rate.

What Factors Influence Santa Barbara Property Taxes?

Several key components influence property tax calculations in Santa Barbara County, including:

  • General Tax Levy: This is set at 1% of the assessed value, as mandated by Proposition 13.
  • Voter-Approved Debt: Additional taxes may be levied to pay off voter-approved general obligation bonds for infrastructure projects, schools, and other community improvements.
  • Special Assessments: These are charges for specific local services or improvements, such as flood control, lighting districts, or pest control.

The Impact of Proposition 13 On Santa Barbara Property Taxes

Proposition 13, passed in 1978, significantly impacts property taxation in Santa Barbara:

  • Assessment Limitation: It limits the annual increase in assessed value to a maximum of 2%, unless the property changes ownership or undergoes new construction.
  • Tax Rate Cap: It caps the general property tax rate at 1% of the assessed value, with additional taxes requiring voter approval.
  • Stability for Homeowners: While Proposition 13 ensures predictable property taxes for homeowners, it has also led to disparities in tax amounts paid by long-term homeowners versus new buyers, given the significant increase in property values over time.

Understanding Supplemental Assessments

When a property changes ownership or undergoes new construction, a supplemental assessment may occur. This reassessment reflects the change in property value and results in a supplemental tax bill, which is separate from the annual property tax bill.

Paying Your Santa Barbara Property Taxes

Property taxes in Santa Barbara are paid in two yearly installments. One tax bill is due November 1st and the other is due on February 1st. If you pay your November tax bill after December 10th, it is considered delinquent. Your February taxes are due no later than April 10th. Remember that paying your property taxes late will result in interest and penalties.

Appealing Your Tax Assessment in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara homeowners can appeal their assessment if they feel it is erroneous. In order to appeal, you must:

  1. File an Application: Submit an application for a reduction in the assessed value to the Santa Barbara County Assessment Appeals Board.
  2. Attend a hearing: Attend a hearing where evidence is presented to justify the claimed property value.

Successful appeals can result in reduced property taxes.

Understanding property taxes in Santa Barbara involves recognizing the role of Proposition 13, the calculation methods for assessed value, and the various components that make up the tax bill. For property owners, staying informed about due dates, exemptions, and the appeals process is crucial for managing tax obligations effectively. By grasping these fundamentals, homeowners and buyers can better navigate the local property tax landscape and make informed financial decisions.


Maureen has been around the industry for a lifetime. Her business is based on the core values and ethics taught to her at a very young age: integrity, honesty, and great communication.