A $75.20 property tax credit created an uproar in San Diego’s City Council race Wednesday, but the county Assessor’s Office stepped forward and conceded the benefit was granted erroneously.

At issue was a credit included in the property tax assessment for a condominium owned by candidate Chris Cate in Carlsbad.

City Council District 6 candidates Carol Kim and Chris Cate. Campaign photos
City Council District 6 candidates Carol Kim and Chris Cate. Campaign photos

At a news conference at the San Diego Hall of Justice, candidate Carol Kim accused her opponent of either fraudulently claiming the credit or not actually living in the council district at the required time.

Kim said the credit appeared on the property tax bill for Cate’s Carlsbad condominium for the fiscal year ended June 30.

Cate was required to live within the boundaries of San Diego’s Council District 6 — which encompasses Mira Mesa, Miramar, Kearny Mesa, Clairemont Mesa and parts of Rancho Penasquitos— by September 2013, according to Kim, an education consultant.

Cate, vice president of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, responded by saying he applied for a change of address with the county Assessor’s Office on June 26 last year, three months before the deadline, and that the credit should not have been applied to his tax bill.

Jeff Olson, the county’s chief of assessment services, told City News Service that Cate’s request was apparently never processed.

“It turns out the Assessor’s Office had an error,” Olson said.

He said Cate would be billed for the $75.20, and it would be taken off this year’s bill.

“The bottom line is that Chris Cate has now admitted that he received a tax break for a property in which he doesn’t live,” said Jennifer Tierney, a spokeswoman for Kim’s campaign.

“Although he is trying to blame someone else, this tax exemption is clearly noted on the twice-yearly bills Mr. Cate received,” she said. “Are we to believe that the vice president of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association does not know how to read his own property tax bill?”

Cate said the Assessor’s Office apologized and provided a letter acknowledging the error.

“The document I submitted to the county in June 2013 is a public record that my opponent did not include in public records she shared with reporters today at a news conference that should have never been held,” he said.

Cate said it was “completely irresponsible for my opponent to resort to making criminal accusations that are completely untrue.”

The two will face off in the Nov. 4 general election. Cate came in first in the primary, but fell a few points short of the 50 percent needed to win outright, necessitating the runoff.

— City News Service

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.