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Marin County assessor’s job sought by Realtor, county employees

candidate BIOS

Name: Brian James Karr

Occupation: Appraiser

Age: 54

Residence: San Rafael

Education: Associate’s degree, real estate, American River College, Sacramento; bachelor’s degree, business administration/real estate and land use, California State University, Sacramento; law degree, University of San Francisco

Experience: Assessment recording technician, Marin County Assessor’s Office, 2002-04; auditor appraiser, Napa County Assessor’s Office, 2004-08; prosecutor, 2008-11; private legal practice 2011-14; appraiser, Marin County Assessor’s Office, 2014 to present.

Name: Jenny Mattson

Occupation: Real estate agent

Age: 50

Residence: San Rafael

Education: Bachelors’s degree in English, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Experience: Real estate agent for last 16 years. Previously worked in human resources field.

Name: Shelly Scott

Occupation: Appraiser

Age: 54

Residence: Novato

Education: San Marin High School graduate; coursework at College of Marin and San Francisco State University

Experience: Novato Unified School District trustee for last nine years; Rotary Club of Novato Sunrise; Marin County Parks and Open Space commissioner; former member of the Marin County Humans Rights Commission; former Marin County Superior Court clerk and accountant

Two candidates running in the June 5 primary election to replace Richard Benson as Marin County’s elected assessor-recorder-county clerk currently work for Benson while the third is a Marin real estate agent with Golden Gate Sotheby’s.

The office operates on an $6.5 million budget with about 78 employees and is responsible for determining the value of all real estate and business property in Marin, recording vital statistics such as births, deaths and marriage licenses, and maintaining documents including records of property title.

“I have served in the assessor-recorder-county clerk office for 30 years,” said Shelly Scott, an appraiser. “I’ve served in every position and all three departments. I have great knowledge on things I think we can improve in the office.”

Scott ran for assessor-recorder in 2010, losing to Benson, who is retiring, in the general election by a little more than 5,000 votes.

Brian James Karr, another candidate in the race, who works alongside Scott as a level-three appraiser, has also worked as an appraiser in the Napa County Assessor’s Office. Karr took time off to earn his law degree and worked as a deputy district attorney and operated his own law practice before returning to Marin’s assessor’s office in February 2014.

“I feel the taxpayers of Marin are really looking for someone who is knowledgeable about the law and can do the job,” Karr said.

The third candidate, Jenny Mattson, has been a Realtor for the last 16 years and with Sotheby’s for the last 10 years.

“I think my experiences in real estate would really translate over to the assessor position,” Mattson said. “I obviously don’t have any knowledge of government, but what I do know how to do is solve problems.

“We need a fresh perspective,” Mattson said, “someone with leadership, management and diplomatic skills.”

Mattson asserts that the county’s tax records are a “full-on mess.”

“Properties are not being classified correctly,” Mattson said. “It’s widespread. I would say one out of five records is incorrect. It is affecting people’s ability to get a mortgage. It’s affecting the value of their properties.”

Scott responded, “I’m not sure how she would know what condition anything is in. As far as I know she’s never actually been to the office and she’s definitely never engaged in a way that would provide her with any insight into our functions or given her any understanding of how to address moving forward.”

Karr said, “I’m not going to say they’re a mess but I’m not going to say they’re perfect. People are adding on all the time without permits and we aren’t notified. If we’re not getting information then there is no way we can update the record.”

Scott said perhaps her highest priority would be replacing the antiquated computer system used by the assessor-recorder-clerk’s office and the Department of Finance.

“I do feel strongly that we do need to modernize and streamline, which is one of the primary reasons I’m running for assessor,” she said. “I think we can blend contemporary technology and old-fashioned customer service in order to offer a streamlined, transparent, user-friendly experience to the community.”

Both Scott and Mattson support new legislation to amend Proposition 13 to allow homebuyers who are age 55 or older or severely disabled to transfer their tax assessment from their prior home to their new home, no matter the new home’s market value or location in the state.

Currently, Proposition 90 allows transfers from one county to another county in California but it is at the discretion of each county to authorize such transfers.

“Marin County used to allow it,” Scott said. “My understanding is that during the 1990s the Board of Supervisors decided to take that provision away because when they did an analysis they were losing money.”

Mattson said there are a number of Marin seniors who would like to relocate out of Marin to Napa County or Sonoma County.

“They want to move,” she said. “The problem is they’re stuck.”

Mattson said it is even difficult for seniors to relocate within Marin since the house or apartment they buy must cost the same or less than their current home if they want to retain the same base year for tax purposes.

“It’s pushing our housing prices up and up and up,” said Mattson, who favors a change in state law to allow seniors to keep the same base year no matter where they move.

Scott said, “You have the elderly who may possibly need to move to be closer to family members to help care for them. That is primarily why I would be supportive of changing the law.”

Karr said there are several proposals being looked at for amending the law and his support would depend on which ends up on the ballot.

“The general idea of it I’m in agreement with,” Karr said, “because too many people are locked in.”

If the law is changed, however, Karr said, “You’re going to need a lot of people to process something like this. You’re talking about creating a huge man-hour problem.”

Neither Mattson nor Karr favor moving to a “split roll,” which would keep Proposition 13 limits on property taxes applied to residential units the same while allowing taxes to reflect market rate valuations of commercial and industrial properties.

“I am not a supporter for several reasons of a ‘split roll’ tax,” Mattson said.

Karr said, “I would not support a split roll nor would I propose legislation.”

Scott, however, said she does support the idea of a split roll.

“This is really a question of fairness,” Scott said. “I’m in favor of anything that helps to create a tax base for our community where there is a more equitable contribution, as long as it doesn’t burden our seniors.”

When it comes to endorsements and campaign contributions, Scott, who has served as a trustee on the Novato Unified School District Board for the last eight nine years, holds a enormous advantage over her competitors.

Scott’s endorsements include California State Controller Betty Yee; Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg; Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-Greenbrae; Marin County Supervisor Kate Sears; and three members of members of the Novato City Council: Denise Athas, Josh Fryday and Eric Lucan.

Neither Mattson nor Karr has any major endorsements.

Scott has received $26,624 in campaign contributions not counting the $30,000 she contributed to her own campaign on May 2. Other than that, her largest contribution, $5,000, came from the Marin Association of Public Employees.

Mattson has reported receiving just $2,245 in contributions. Karr has reported receiving no contributions.

He said, “I am not soliciting, nor accepting campaign donations for the primary.”

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