Part of the Bay Area News Group

County tax equity bill passes committee

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Thursday, April 17th, 2008 at 1:12 pm in California Legislature.

A bipartisan bill to equalize California county shares of property taxes passed unanimously today out of the Assembly Local Government Committee.

A.B. 2872 is co-authored by Assemblymen Guy Houston, R-San Ramon, and Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord. It would phase in a reform of the 1979 formula used to return a portion of property taxes to county government operations.

Contra Costa County government receives 11 percent of the property taxes its residents pay compared to the state average of 17 percent. If the bill passes, it would bring an estimated additional $80 million to Contra Costa County.

It’s unclear if this bill will survive further legislative scrutiny. Counties that receive a higher than average share of the property taxes have little incentive to alter a system that favors them, especially at a time when the state revenues are plummeting.

Read on for Houston’s press release on the bill:

HOUSTON BILL BRINGING FAIRNESS TO COUNTY FUNDING PASSES IN COMMITTEE

Under funded Counties to receive funds for police and fire protection, and health services

(Sacramento) – Assemblyman Guy Houston (R-San Ramon) announced today that Assembly Bill 2872 passed Assembly Local Government Committee with no opposition. AB 2872 will allow under-funded counties to keep additional property tax revenue needed for county services. The bill, which was co-authored by Assemblyman DeSaulnier (D-Martinez), will bring funding fairness to under-funded counties like Contra Costa for police and fire protection, and health services.

“School funding equalization, where our once rural districts are receiving less funding then urban districts, isn’t the only example of funding unfairness,” said Houston. “Many California counties have been short changed by Sacramento as well and this inequity must be addressed.”

Each county in the state assesses property taxes based on the value of the property. However the level of funding the county keeps for county use, for schools, roads, police and fire protection was determined by the Legislature in 1979 and has not been adjusted since.

“Over the past 30 years, counties like Contra Costa have watched their population increase, but the county’s share of the property tax has not,” said Houston. “The county should be receiving its fair share of the funding. Contra Costa could gain upwards of $80 million dollars through my measure for vital services the county needs.”

Every year, several counties in California receive far less in property-tax disbursements than other counties. For example, Contra Costa receives 11% of the county property tax revenues for county services. Orange County receives only 6%. Alpine County receives 65% of its property taxes. The state average is 17%.

“I am proud to say this bill received bi-partisan support and want to thank Assemblyman DeSaulnier for co-authoring the bill,” said Houston. “This is a step in the right direction and I will continue to work with my colleagues to bring fairness to county funding across the state.”

AB 2872 will raise the property tax rates for county governments who are receiving less than the average state level of 17%, to the 17% level over the next 20 years. This means counties that currently receive less than the state average would receive millions more in funding for services for vital services like public safety, emergency services, and fire protection.

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