Ginsborg: Why re-electing Assessor Larry Stone is so important
Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone stands outside his office in San Jose in this file photo.

Property taxes and school funding; one elected office on the ballot every four years has a big impact on both of these critical issues.

Yet, as many people work their way through the ballot they often drift off before they get to the assessor’s race. That would be a costly mistake. Re-electing Assessor Larry Stone is an easy way to both protect our property taxes and assure our kids’ schools are properly funded.

For 24 years I worked in the Santa Clara County Assessor’s Office, rising to the position of deputy to the assessor before retiring last year. I worked alongside Stone for more than two decades and participated in thousands of meetings and important decisions. What I learned is that strong management matters.

I saw firsthand the positive impact an independently elected assessor can have on the fair, equitable and timely administration of property taxes. Larry was relentless in demanding performance and accountability from the bureaucracy. The culture he created values customer service, strong fiscal management and the highest standards of ethics and integrity.

The results during Larry’s 27-year tenure are astonishing:

  • While assessment roll value increased 400%, Stone’s team has been able to provide a high standard of accuracy with only a 3% increase in staff.
  • Independent state audits have found an assessment accuracy rating of 99%.
  • Stone has underspent his approved budget by $23 million, sending that money back to Santa Clara County where it could be used for schools and public services.

Year after year, in independent surveys, customers rated public services and responsiveness as very high, far above many brand names let alone most government agencies.

Despite the billions of property taxes at stake, there has never been even the whiff of a scandal. That’s no accident. Larry has demanded his assessment professionals adhere to a high code of ethics and integrity. It’s a code he models personally to his staff in countless meetings with powerful corporate leaders and wealthy property owners. Everyone is treated fairly, with respect and strictly according to the law.

Instilling a philosophy of strong fiscal accountability and performance management has earned his office the distinction of one of the best managed by the state controller. The lessons I learned from Larry and his approach to management will remain with me for the rest of my life. They also will have a lifetime impact on our community.

Is he perfect? No. But none of us are. On countless occasions, I cited as examples to my family and neighbors, tough decisions he had made that matched our highest civic ideals. With Larry we truly are fortunate to have an old-school public servant, not just another politician looking to get ahead.

As a homeowner and a parent with a child in public schools, the assessor’s race is too important to ignore, and Larry Stone has done too good of a job to not be rehired by the voters on June 7.

David Ginsborg is a former deputy assessor for Santa Clara County.

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