No guarantee of forgiveness on property tax penalties, interest in Fresno County

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno County's tax collector and supervisors are not committing to any property tax relief for people whose health or finances took a hit because of the coronavirus.

Property taxes, technically, are already due all across California.

The second installment is supposed to come in Feb. 1, but penalties don't apply until after April 10 and they're big - 10% of your unpaid bill on April 11.

Fresno County supervisors have emphasized recently how unbreakable the deadline is.

"I would just oversimplify it by saying our tax collector or this body doesn't have the ability to change the date or the amount of these property taxes," said supervisor Steve Brandau.

Except maybe they do.

A letter from major statewide groups like the League of California Cities is urging Gov. Gavin Newsom not to step in to postpone property tax payments because of the coronavirus.

Their letter acknowledges counties already have the power to waive penalties and interest, essentially postponing payments for people in dire straits.

San Luis Obispo County already announced they're doing it.

An executive order from the governor might also allow them to take steps to provide financial relief, so the county assessor is urging his county counterparts to take action.

"That's what I like about this governor. He took the bull by the horns and he says, you know, 'Give them relief,'" said Paul Dictos. "Now it's up to the board of supervisors."

Tax collector Oscar Garcia says it doesn't make sense to define ahead of time the circumstances under which he would waive penalties and interest.

He says the circumstances are changing and the county needs the money to pay municipal bonds and salaries for law enforcement and firefighters.

"It is important to maintain essential services and the cost ramifications of responding to COVID-19 as yet unknown," Garcia said.

He's encouraging everyone to make their payments and is even keeping a cash window open at the county's Hall of Records.

For high risk groups especially, it'll open on Saturday, April 4, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Garcia will at least consider waiving penalties and interest in a case-by-case basis.

"For those who have experienced wage reductions, layoffs, illnesses, or even the death of a loved one, we are here to assist you," he said.

What form that assistance might take is still unclear.

Fresno County supervisors also will not pass a moratorium on evictions during the coronavirus outbreak until at least April.

The county counsel pulled a moratorium off the agenda for county supervisors Tuesday, saying it needed more work.

It would've protected renters from getting kicked out through May.

The city of Fresno passed an eviction moratorium last week, but renters have to notify landlords about the coronavirus circumstances that are preventing them from paying.

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