To help make up for that Assembly Bill 1235 was passed last year, it allows counties to charge farmers 10% of what they are saving on taxes through the Williamson Act. If implemented in Fresno County it would bring in more than $2 million a year in taxes. That's money Supervisor Henry Perea says the county needs.
At Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting Perea said, "It will put more DA's on the job, more deputy sheriffs on the streets, and other services that we deem to be appropriate."
County employees also see a need for the money. SEIU Union representative Kevin Smith told the board, "During budget hearings all it was about wanting to find a dollar, trying to make a dollar to keep the programs going. So, based on all those statements it is clear Fresno County could use the two and a quarter million dollars this will bring to the county."
County Resident Kendra Rogers also voiced support for getting the money: "We have a health department that is severely underfunded we have juvenile justice services we have justice services as a whole, crimes that aren't able to prosecuted because we're underfunded but yet we're looking at the potential of passing up revenue."
But farmers don't like the idea. Manuel Cunha of the Nisei Farmers League told the board farmers have already been hit with big tax bills from the county.
Cunha said, "This whole process has failed I have never seen a more disorganized process for taxes and fees on farmers ever."
Much of the discussion on AB 1235 centered on other taxes. County Assessor Paul Dictos re-assessed farmland last year and determined past assessors grossly undervalued farmland. He hiked taxes by about 13%. That comes on top of increased assessments based on crop values that have increased farm property taxes by more than 20%. Because of those increases Supervisor Debbie Poochigian argued, now is not the time for more taxes on farmers. "There's a lot of farmers who are doing well, I'm sure, but there are a lot who are barely making it."
Five surrounding counties, Merced, Madera, Kings and Tulare Counties impose the AB 1235 fee of farmland, but in the end Fresno County, Supervisors Poochigian, Phil Larson and Judy Case voted not to take the money. They said they would reconsider it next year.