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County to see fairer share of tax money

Permanent solution still needed, says supervisor

POSTED February 26, 2010 10:14 p.m.
Stanislaus County will begin to get a fairer share of state property tax allocations following Wednesday’s signing of Senate Bill 85, but the relief will last for just two years and still fall millions short of an equitable share.
Currently, Stanislaus County receives 11 cents of every property tax dollar collected in the county. The average return is about 19 cents, while San Francisco County receives 25 cents back from every property tax dollar.
The inequity has its roots in the 1978 passage of Proposition 13, which led the state to increase local General Fund support for education. While the shift in funding resulted in an overall increase in dollars for 52 counties, six — Alpine, Lassen, Mariposa, Plumas, Stanislaus, and Trinity — lose money each year.
“This is a fairness measure designed to correct an injustice that has continued to plague six counties for over two decades,” said State Senator Jeff Denham (R-Merced), a coauthor of the bill. “At no fault of their own, these counties are paying the price for an out-of-date state accounting formula.”
SB85 will cap the amount of collections the county must transfer to local schools for the next two years, and then create a baseline for future years.
“I applaud the governor for signing this law to help our rural counties get their fair share of property tax dollars. This legislation will help counties put more locally-generated tax dollars to work closer to home,” said Senator Dave Cogdill (R-Modesto).
Stanislaus County is estimated to have lost as much as $50 million over the past 20 years. The County Board of Supervisors manages about $150 million in discretionary revenue, and a $250 million total General Fund budget.
According to Stanislaus County District 2 Supervisor Vito Chiesa, the bill will generate — at best, should property taxes go up over the next two years — $200,000 per year for the next two years. In a worst-case scenario, the bill guarantees the county will not lose additional funding over that same time span.
“I appreciate the hard work and dedication of both Senators Cogdill and Denham, because it’s much appreciated, but the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors remain committed to finding a permanent solution to the property tax inequity,” Chiesa said.
The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors has been attempting to address the tax imbalance for many years, working with state legislators to introduce Senate Bill 9 in 2005 and Senate Bill 215 in 2007. Both measures failed in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Chiesa said that, while the SB85 funding shift will result in a “drop in the bucket” of the county’s total funding, every dollar counts given the tough economic state of the county. The $200,000 could mean two additional sheriff’s deputies on patrol.
“In these times we’d be appreciative of that,” Chiesa said. “We’re picking up nickels off the ground.”
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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