San Diego needs inewsource

Support local investigative journalism with a gift today and your donation will make double the difference through our year-end challenge. 

Or sign up for our email list.

The city of San Diego’s audit committee has decided it would be too much work and too costly to reconcile the tax bills for people who pay special assessments called Mello-Roos. Instead, the committee recommends notifying people of potential errors in their bills.

Mello-Roos taxes are special assessments added to property taxes in new developments.

An audit, prompted by an inewsource investigation,  found problems with the way the city records square footage on building permits. The mistakes could lead to some people paying too much or too little in Mello-Roos taxes.

Auditors looked at one neighborhood in the northeastern section of the city called Del Sur. Of the 306 homes reviewed, the square footage the city recorded did not match San Diego County assessor records in 252 cases. That’s more than 80 percent of the time.

In most of those instances, the audit found the discrepancies were not enough to affect the tax assessment. In 22 instances, however, homeowners overpaid by as much as $1,000 or underpaid by $1,800.

Committee members said the error rate – about seven percent – was not big enough to justify checking all Mello Roos bills. About 33,000 taxpayers in San Diego pay the special tax, according to an inewsource analysis.

The audit committee’s recommendation now goes to council for final approval.

Last year inewsource identified several taxpayers who were being overcharged, some by as much as $6,000 a year, on their Mello-Roos tax bills.

Joanne Faryon is a freelance reporter and former inewsource and KPBS reporter.