As most Three Rivers landowners are painfully aware, the first installment of the 2014/2015 property taxes is due next Wednesday (December 10). If the remittance is not postmarked by this date, a 10 percent penalty over and above the current amount due will be applied.
So just what are those who own property — whether undeveloped land or a home, one parcel or 10, owner-occupied or absentee owner — paying for anyway?
Currently, Three Rivers property owners have five general obligation bonds to fund and anywhere from one to five or more fixed charges.
Community Services District— Most people who own local property fund the Three Rivers Community Services District via property taxes that cannot exceed 1 percent of assessed valuation. Additional funding may be acquired by the CSD but it would require two-thirds majority approval by registered voters within the CSD, and currently there is no such assessment.
If living on the upper reaches of South Fork and North Fork drives, on Highway 198 beyond the Mineral King Road, or farther up Mineral King Road, then the property is out of the CSD’s sphere of influence and there is no CSD charge on those property tax statements. If within the CSD’s Improvement District #1 (Alta Acres subdivision), an additional tax is levied for that area’s water system.
The local CSD is governed by a five-member, all-volunteer board, elected by the district’s registered voters. A CSD allows a community that may not have the tax base necessary to incorporate into a city to have a local agency that provides some essential services.
The local CSD monitors water quality of the river, reporting regularly to the California Water Quality Board; provides low-cost drinking water or well water testing; and conducts septic system inspections upon request, and oversees the local preschoolers’ playground.
A CSD is authorized to provide a wide variety of services, including but not limited to water, garbage collection, wastewater management, security, fire protection, public recreation, street lighting, mosquito abatement, library services, ambulance services, and graffiti abatement. It all depends on if a community wants more local control over services than what the county government is offering.
Three Rivers Memorial District— Measure C was approved by registered voters within the boundaries of the district in June 2005 at the rate of $23 per parcel to pay for major upgrades and repairs of the aging Three Rivers Memorial Building and assist with increasing fire and liability insurance premiums.
There is no sunset date on this tax. It is up to the elected, unpaid five-member board of directors to cancel or reduce the special tax when it has determined that sufficient funds have been received for the stated purpose.
Williamson Act— The California Land Conservation Act, better known as the Williamson Act because it is legislation authored by then-state assemblyman John Williamson, was enacted in 1965 to preserve farmland from being developed for urban uses, offering incentives such as reduced property tax rates to farmers, ranchers, and other landowners who participated.
However, Assembly Bill (AB) 1265 became effective on July 15, 2011, that allows eligible counties to recapture 10 percent of the property tax benefits provided to the owners of Williamson Act lands.
Additional charges— The County of Tulare may assess additional taxes for any abatement that may be required, including but not limited to fire-hazard clearance or property cleanup.
The school bonds on local property tax statements all required voter approval.
College of the Sequoias—There are currently three listings on the tax rolls for the Visalia campus of COS, which includes Three Rivers (there are also Tulare and Hanford campuses). These listings all refer to Measure I, a general obligation bond passed by voters in November 2008 to refurbish and upgrade facilities on the Visalia campus and provide for future growth.
Measure I was passed by 66 percent of voters and provides a $28 million bond to improve the school’s gym, theater, upgrade technology and security, fund nursing program technology and equipment, provide matching funds, and pay previous debts.
The assessments have appeared in annual increments as the bond is sold, thus the A, B, and C listings, beginning with the 2009/2010 tax year and then again in 2010/2011 and 2011/2012. The bond will not exceed what was originally approved by voters.
The A and C portions of the bond are for 25 years; portion B has a sunset of 30 years from the first year enacted.
Woodlake High School— In 2008, a majority of voters in the Woodlake High School district, which includes Three Rivers, approve Measure J. That 25-year bond funded the school’s competition swimming pool and event center that includes a gym, its accompanying facilities, and a cafeteria/food service area. There is a “B” increment to this 2008 bond, but payments will not begin until the “A” portion is completely paid.
In 2010, Woodlake High’s Measure C was approved by two-thirds of voters that provides for new classrooms, restrooms, track, field turf, stadium bleachers, tennis courts, baseball and softball fields, and more. This was a refunding of a 1998 bond and will mature in 15 years.
Since the economic downturn, assessed property values may have declined. While the Tulare County Assessor’s Office reports that many property values have already been reduced on its tax rolls, it could be of benefit to a property owner to check. There is a frequently-asked-questions page (FAQs) at www.tularecountytax.com or call the Assessor’s Office at (559) 636-5100.
Envelopes for mailing property tax payments are provided with the statements. Mailed payments must be postmarked by December 10 to avoid an additional 10 percent charge. Checks or money orders may be made payable and mailed to Tulare County Tax Collector, P.O. Box 30329, Los Angeles, CA 90030-0329.
Payments may be paid by cash or check from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, at the Tax Collector’s Office at the County Civic Center in Visalia (221 S. Mooney Blvd., Room 104-E).
Credit card and electronic funds transfer payments are accepted online at www.tularecountytax.com or by phone at 1-800-265-9581. A fee is charged for these transactions; have the APN (assessor’s parcel number) available.
A curbside drop box for
payments is located at the County Civic Center in Visalia in the northeast parking lot adjacent to Mooney Blvd. Look for the red, white, and blue pennants.
Questions and assistance
If needing a duplicate tax bill or for any questions about the bill, call (559) 636-5250.