• Estate has 'limited market appeal,' panel decides. ">
  • Estate has 'limited market appeal,' panel decides. " />
  • Estate has 'limited market appeal,' panel decides. " /> Ellison wins 60% tax cut on Woodside estate | News | Almanac Online |


    Ellison wins 60% tax cut on Woodside estate

    He will get a $3 million refund; school, town coffers are hit

    Woodside billionaire Larry Ellison will get an estimated $3.06 million refund from property taxes he's paid since 2004 on his 23-acre Mountain Home Road estate, while local schools and the town of Woodside will see their share of annual tax revenue drop as a result of a recent 60 percent reduction in the assessed value of the lavishly developed property.

    The reassessment will hit the Portola Valley School District the hardest: The district estimates a drop of $250,000 to $300,000 in tax revenue beginning this year because of the change.

    Mr. Ellison had appealed a determination by the San Mateo County assessor's office of the value of his 745 Mountain Home Road property, which includes a main house, a two-bedroom guest house, three cottages, a barn converted into a gym, a five-acre man-made lake, two waterfalls and two bridges.

    In a decision last December, the San Mateo County Assessment Appeals Board reduced the property's assessment from $173 million in 2007 to an estimated $69.7 million in 2008.

    As a result, taxes on the property -- billed at about $1.86 million in 2007 -- are estimated to be $751,041 in 2008, according to Terrence Flinn, deputy county assessor. This represents an estimated $1.1 million reduction in property taxes for this year.

    The dispute

    The appeal, filed by Mr. Ellison's Octopus Holdings LP, challenged the method of assessment used by the county, which was based on reproduction cost of the buildings and other improvements to the property.

    Octopus Holdings, represented by attorney William R. Bennett of Bennett & Yee in San Francisco, argued that the assessment should be based on "the cost to replace an existing property with a property of equivalent utility as of a particular date" <0x2014> an assessment that allows for discounting the value of many exotic features on the property, which is based on a Japanese emperor's 16th century estate, because they would have limited appeal to another buyer. (See related story.)

    Mr. Bennett did not return the Almanac's phone calls seeking comment.

    Mr. Flinn, the deputy county assessor, said the reduction in the property's assessment and tax bill is retroactive to May 1, 2004. The appeals board set the assessed value of the property for that date at $64.4 million, as opposed to the county's $163 million assessment.

    The reductions in assessed value amount to $100 million in 2005, $102 million for 2006, and $104 million for 2007, Mr. Flinn said.

    Although local school and special districts, and the town of Woodside, will be affected by the future decline in tax revenues, they won't bear the brunt of the $3.06 million refund due Mr. Ellison. Instead, the refund will be deducted proportionately from the future tax revenues disbursed to all governmental districts in San Mateo County, said Kanchan Charan, the county's deputy controller.

    That's the sanctioned method for such a refund under Assembly Bill 8 -- a "share the pain" approach that spreads out the impact of large tax refunds among a larger base, according to Mr. Charan and Mr. Flinn.

    Local impact

    The Woodside property is located in the Portola Valley School District, although children from that area have the option of going to either Portola Valley schools or Woodside School.

    Tim Hanretty, assistant superintendent of the Portola Valley district, calculates the impact as a $250,000 to $300,000 loss to the district in the 2008 tax year. The $300,000 figure translates into the cost of almost three teachers.

    The revenue loss is significant because the elementary school district faces a $1 million shortfall for 2008, zero property revenue growth, and an increase in enrollment from 714 students to 750.

    About 87 percent of the district's budget comes from property taxes, parcel taxes, the Portola Valley Schools Foundation, grants and contributions.

    Susan George, Woodside town manager and director of finance, said the town received about $130,000 in tax revenues from Mr. Ellison's property in 2007. Because of the reassessment, that figure is likely to drop to under $53,000, she estimated.

    The Sequoia Union High School District will lose approximately $62,000 in revenue this year because of the reassessment, said Ed LaVigne, the district's assistant superintendent for administrative services.

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    1 person likes this
    Posted by Donald
    a resident of another community
    on Mar 29, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    So Larry Ellison gets a big tax break at the expense of the PV School District. I agree that his bad taste mans that his estate has "limited market appeal", but if he had any conscience he would make a $300,000 donation to the school district to compensate them for their loss of revenue. He seems to be jealous of Bill Gates, but Bill has been far more generous in his philanthropic giving than has Larry. There are many levels on which to compete, and being the richest person seems to me to be the most unworthy of them all.

    Like this comment
    Posted by Gwyn Firth Murray
    a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
    on Mar 31, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    Thoughts for Larry Ellison:

    Particularly given this news, I hope that Larry Ellison will consider a generous donation to the Menlo Park – Atherton Education Foundation -- and/or other School Districts and related San Mateo County school foundations.

    I have two children attending the Menlo Park schools. I struggle to pay the property taxes (much less the mortgage) on my suburban plot. I want to stay in the area largely because the public schools have done, and are doing, such a great job for my children.

    Mr. Ellison's help and support of our local schools would be much appreciated. I look forward to reading about his gift(s) in the Almanac and other papers very soon!

    I thank him in advance for his consideration and generosity.

    Gwyn Firth Murray

    2 people like this
    Posted by Joseph Coolidge
    a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
    on Apr 1, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    I for one beg to differ that Mr. Ellison owes anything at all to the school district. His property taxes were wrongly assessed based on what it cost to build a 16th century Japanese complex and not what this complex was worth. I don't know if he is getting his money back plus interest, but this money was wrongfully taken from him. I don't care if the tax dollars were used to feed handicapped orphans, it was wrong to take this money from him, so he fought it in court and won.

    The one thing that I can not stand about any school district, and I have school aged kids, is like the fire department and the police department, when you tell them to cut their budget by 10%, the first thing the school department does is propose to cut the sports program or make some other ludicrous proposal to arouse simple minded parents.

    The school district is supposed to cut administrative jobs at district headquarters, not teachers or sports programs. Of course, parents wouldn't take notice or care if jobs at the district headquarters were cut, hence the silly season, with districts making absurd proposals designed to anger parents, with no one calling the district on these proposals.

    Our schools will be fine without Mr. Ellison's wrongly assessed taxes. I recommend they get the admin to teacher ratio reduced and we won't even notice the difference.

    Like this comment
    Posted by Donald
    a resident of another community
    on Apr 3, 2008 at 8:39 am

    Joseph, neither of us said that he owes anything to the school district. I said he would make a donation if he had a conscience, but I know that is not the case.

    Like this comment
    Posted by miss cindirella
    a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
    on Apr 23, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    i think it is such a sad article written here, attempting to point your own community issues at Mr. Ellison this man simply because he is above average successful man.

    In american we are suppose to have a dream. A dream that if we work hard and believe in ourself, try to do the right things and work very hard, we have the opportunity to reach any heights. Then those who do achive those heights, get pounded for doing so.

    It is this mans right to build his dream home. If the community takes it's losses ONLY because he choose your commuinty, the it is a community issue who has put all its eggs in one basket, putting their short falls on him.

    the fact is, YOU are better than you were. If he had not choosen your community, You would not have an additional 69.7 million in 2008 within your community. If he had NOT choosen your community to live in, this means that you would be short what you are PLUS what he has given.

    And you dare put him in possition of feeling he needs to make a contribution for that downfall? Thats pretty bold for a community if you ask me. I hope you very appriciative that his kindness offered to help you out instead of feeling he owed it to you.

    I just read this, and I was wondering how many in that community really thought it out. Someone like that is an assit bringing funds into the community. I only hope he is appriciated.

    It must have been very frustrating for him to work so hard, build his dream home, have a community assessment Appeals Board reduced the property's assessment,like anyone else could do in that community; only instead of feeling I was fairly treated, been barked at because they happen to be higher end. I just strongly feel after reading this that the community there did not think how much LESS they would have in that town without him there at all.

    People should appriciate others more. Its was a sad article for an outsider to read. It says alot about the real people in that community.

    Like this comment
    Posted by another editor
    a resident of another community
    on Mar 15, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Regarding the comment posted by "miss cindirella, a resident of the Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2008 at 7:11 pm":
    Proof positive that our schools need all of the money they can get to promote literacy.

    Posted by Name hidden
    a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle

    on Jun 3, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

    Posted by Name hidden
    a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda

    on Sep 26, 2017 at 5:16 am

    Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

    Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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