News - June 30, 2010

Sun Micro reassessment not yet resolved

by Dave Boyce

The question is still open as to whether the San Mateo County Assessor's Office will reassess the four-parcel campus of Sun Microsystems at Willow Road and Bayfront Expressway in Menlo Park.

Oracle Corp. recently acquired (or merged) with Sun — the difference is not automatically material to whether a reassessment occurs, officials said — and a reassessment of the $355.4 million campus could boost property tax revenues for the city of Menlo Park.

Terry Flinn, a deputy assessor with San Mateo County, told The Almanac that his office has forwarded Oracle's paperwork to the Legal Entity Ownership Program at the state Board of Equalization.

Not all commercial property transfers receive this level of treatment, Mr. Flinn said. "These complex legal entity transfers, we ask the state board to look at those," he said. "They're going to review the case and let us know what to do."

Menlo Park Finance Director Carol Augustine, who in an interview said that she's been involved in municipal finance for 25 years, said she told the City Council that she has never seen a commercial property reassessed and that it is unlikely in this case as well.

"We haven't heard anything," she told The Almanac. "I thought that Oracle, of all companies, would structure their purchase or acquisition to not trigger a reassessment. ... I just have had no experience whatsoever of commercial properties being reassessed."

The board will look at two questions, said Anita Gore of the state Board of Equalization. Was there a change in control of Sun Microsystems of more than 50 percent? Was there a change in ownership?

These questions are complicated when a company's properties span more than one county, as in this case, Mr. Flinn said.

The state's opinion is not final. "If we independently see something differently, we would definitely have the opportunity to send it to our lawyers," Mr. Flinn said.

The reassessment question tends not to be as complicated for homes as it is for corporations, Mr. Flinn said. "People die, corporations don't," he added.


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