Fresno County Assessor to get state grant

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno County leaders have changed their minds about accepting $2 million from the state. The board of supervisors reversed itself and voted to take the money, which will go to the county tax collector.

Supervisor Debbie Poochigian just took over as board chairperson. Last year she succeeded in stopping the state grant from reaching the assessor's office. But with two new members on the panel, she was the lone voice against accepting the money which will restore just a fraction of the staff cuts imposed on the assessor's office in recent years.

Poochigian made it clear she doesn't want Assessor Paul Dictos to be able to collect more taxes from Fresno County residents. During Tuesday's board meeting she scolded Dictos.

"Every dollar you take out of their pockets is a dollar Sacramento can waste," said Poochigian.

Last August Poochigian and then Supervisor Phil Larson were able to stop the grant application which required a vote four of the five supervisors for approval. It was a vote against allowing Dictos to hire 11 more workers. The office has been crippled losing more than 50 workers in recent years due to county budget cuts. But Poochigian argued the assessor can't be trusted with more.

Poochigian said, "I didn't believe then and I don't believe now that the department has been truthful with the board and the taxpayers of this county."

Action News asked Dictos if he wanted to comment on the hostility Mrs. Poochigian seemed to harbor against him and his office.

Dictos said, "I just love Mrs. Poochigian I cannot be mad with her because of the long friendship I had with her father."

Poochigian's father was the late Deran Koligian, a long time Fresno County Supervisor.

The source of some of the friction between is Dictos re-assessments of farm property, which started when he came into office four years ago. New Board member Brian Pacheco, who replaced Phil Larson on the board, addressed that dispute in voting to accept the grant money.

Pacheco said, "There's a lot of history with your office and the Ag community so it's really hard for a new person like myself to come in here with all those animosities but again I come here new and am willing to give everyone a fresh start and open mind."

In the end, the vote was four to one to allow Dictos to accept the money.

Dictos said, "This is good news, this is a New Year's gift for the assessor, this is a New Year's gift for the community.

A gift because Dictos said much of the backlog in his office is from the flood of requests to lower taxes on property that plunged in value.

The grant money accepted by the county does have strings attached. In exchange for accepting the money over three years at the rate of more than $600,000 a year, the county has to agree not to cut the assessor's budget during those three years.

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