The State Senate Thursday unanimously approved legislation authored by Senator Dave Cogdill (R-Modesto), Senate Bill 85, which will help bring equity to property tax allocations for rural counties.  The measure now moves to the Governor’s desk for review.

“This measure takes a significant step forward in reversing an inequity that has put small counties at a financial disadvantage. This help couldn’t come at a more crucial time as counties currently grapple with difficult local budget reductions,” said Senator Cogdill.

“I encourage Governor Schwarzenegger to sign this measure which levels the playing field for some of our state’s smallest counties.”

To help counties offset local revenue losses from the passage of Proposition 13, the state in 1978 increased General Fund support at the local level for education, which helped increase funding for 52 counties. But six counties, Alpine, Lassen, Mariposa, Plumas, Stanislaus, and Trinity actually lose money each year due to this funding shift. Senate Bill 85 would cap the amount of collections that the county must transfer to local schools for the next two years and then create a baseline for future years to save counties hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

“This is a fairness measure designed to correct an injustice that has continued to plague six counties for over two decades,” said Denham, 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 “At no fault of their own, these counties are paying the price for an out-of-date state accounting formula.”

Denham introduced similar legislation, Senate Bill 215 (2007), which failed passage in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

In addition, this bill provides relief to Yolo County, which currently receives the smallest share of local property tax revenue, 9 percent versus the statewide average of 17 percent.

“SB 85 throws a lifeline to Yolo County when they need it most, helping to provide much-needed services,” said Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis), another coauthor of the measure. “While significant inequity still exists, this measure is a first step toward addressing this long-standing problem.”

“SB 85 corrects a long-standing property-tax inequity affecting rural counties.  In addition, Yolo County, which currently ranks 58 out of 58 California counties in the percentage of local property tax retention and is reeling from the substantial loss of Williamson Act subvention funds, welcomes this modest tax relief,” said Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis), who also coauthored the bill.

The bill was introduced at the request and with the cooperation of Stanislaus County officials.

“Counties that have served as good stewards of taxpayers’ dollars, like Stanislaus County, have been at a competitive disadvantage for years due to this funding shift that was intended to help local government,” said Jim DeMartini, who serves on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors. “I applaud Senator Cogdill for his efforts to help counties receive their fair share of tax dollars. I hope the Governor signs this bill so counties can keep more resources in their communities and better serve residents in need.”

Once SB 85 officially reaches the Governor’s desk, he will have 12 days to act upon the measure.