An increased exemption and lowered rate of the federal estate tax passed by Congress last month is welcome news to farmers.
The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010, passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama Dec. 17, provides for a $5 million exemption and top rate of 35 percent on the taxable estate of a deceased person in 2011 and 2012, compared with the prior $3.5 million and 45 percent respectively.
The estate tax has been of particular concern in the agricultural community, said Sasha Farkas, of Sonora, the California Farm Bureau Federation director representing Tuolumne and Stanislaus counties.
By MOLLY TOWNSEND
The Union Democrat
Save Mart Supermarket’s newly appointed vice president of operations, Ed Popke, of Sonora, has been working his way to the top for 32 years and counting.
Popke first began his career with Save Mart in 1978 in Modesto at the age of 18 where he worked as a produce clerk before transferring the following year to Sonora’s lower Save Mart, said Save Mart Supermarkets president and chief operations officer Steve Junqueiro. Popke was later promoted to produce manager over Modesto and Sonora stores after opening the upper Save Mart on Mono Way in 1992, Junqueiro said.
“His commitment to our customers has been evident in every position he held,” Junqueiro said of Popke in a Nov. 1 memo sent to Save Mart employees.
A special dinner featuring 19th century writer and humorist Mark Twain — as channeled by impersonator Pat Kaunert — will mark the Jan. 15 grand opening celebration for Columbia’s City Hotel restaurant.
The grand opening three-course dinner and program is offered at $35 per person.
The first course will be spicy candied walnuts, stilton cheese and organic greens with quince vinaigrette, and the second course will be cream of carrot and ginger soup. The entree will be a choice of poached pacific salmon and roasted root vegetables with an arugula pistou, roasted duck with butternut squash, crepes and green beans, or grilled flat iron steak bordelaise with chanterelles, artichoke hearts, roasted garlic and fresh thyme. Dessert will be maple pots de creme with almond praline.
In Kaunert’s portrayal, Twain returns to 1880 Columbia to deliver a lecture on his adventures out West, including mining on the Nevada Comstock, big trouble in San Francisco, pocket mining near Tuttletown and spinning yarns at Jackass Hill in Tuolumne County.
Call 532-1479 for reservations.
It didn’t take long for the crowds to come to Lowe’s Monday.
The big-box home improvement store opened its doors in Sonora at 6 a.m. By 9:30 a.m., the parking lot was packed with eager shoppers.
John Guzzetta was one of them.
Guzzetta lives in San Jose and owns a second home in the county.
He was happy to see the 94,000-square-foot store has the same layout as the Lowe’s store he’s accustomed to in San Jose.
Local beekeepers are having mixed results as their hives weather the winter.
The petite pollinators’ providence has been a concern worldwide in recent years since the winter 2006-2007 mass disappearance of bees termed “colony collapse disorder.” Because the bees pollinate a third of America’s crops, their health is important to growers of almonds, apples, various berries, cherries and more.
Sierra Foothill Beekeepers Association President Lorinda Forrest, of Tuolumne, said reports from club members have not been alarming.
By MOLLY TOWNSEND
The Union Democrat
Let’Er Buck Western Wear and Uniforms, Sonora’s Favorite Kitchen Store and Mountain Storm Jujitsu have won top honors in the Historic Sonora Chamber of Commerce’s first annual Christmas window decorating contest.
The winners were honored last week at a ceremony held at the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau.
The majority of downtown merchants entered the contest, which offered more than $1,000 in prize money.
“It was fun,” said Mary Henson of the Historic Sonora Chamber. “It generated some friendly competition.”
Sonora Mayor Bill Canning, who also donated the $500 first-place prize, came up with the idea of a window decorating contest.
Let ‘Er Buck captured top honors.
Business owners and bank operators were schooled on the ins and outs of special government loans that target small businesses in an effort to boost entrepreneurialism last Wednesday.
John Manalli, the Small Business Administration Fresno district deputy director, led a one and a half hour discussion examining different kinds of loans available to business owners, which worked for specific business situations and how the rules of the programs changed in 2010.
The SBA is a part of the federal government that guarantees loans made by certain commercial banks to small businesses.
Things are looking better for the Williamson Land Conservation Act this year, with the state providing some funding to keep the tax-break program afloat.
But the money is just a fraction of what it was in years past. Nonetheless, for county officials throughout the state, this year’s outlook beats last year, when the state nixed the funds completely.
That action — just one meant to deal with a big state budget deficit — forced counties to subsidize the program themselves or halt participation in the program.
Calaveras and Tuolumne counties were among those who put up some of their own funds to keep the program running seamlessly.
In the past, Williamson Act subvention funds amounted to roughly $130,000 annually for Calaveras County and nearly $100,000 annually for Tuolumne County.
This year, the two counties are getting about a quarter of the Williamson Act funding they’ve traditionally received.
About 130,000 acres are protected under the Williamson Act in Calaveras County; 100,000 in Tuolumne County.
Statewide, the state, in recent years, has paid about $35 million to counties for roughly 17 million acres protected under the Williamson Act. This year, only $10 million is available.
The money is for tax revenue counties would have otherwise earned if it weren’t for their participation in the act.
Participating landowners are required to enter into 10-year contracts in which they agree not to develop their land, with the contracts renewed each year.
The holiday season is here, and with it temporary jobs that provide a much-needed economic boost.
But don’t look for an economic turnaround overnight.
Tuolumne County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO George Segarini said though the holiday jobs are a welcome sight, they don’t compare to the job boon of the summer months, when tourism picks up.
“Obviously, the seasonal hiring makes a difference in our hiring rates, but it’s not significant,” he said. “It just makes incremental changes in the unemployment rate.”
The unemployment rate in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties sits at 12.9 percent and 14.8 percent, respectively.
Most of the local seasonal jobs are in retail, Segarini noted, largely at big-box stores.
“There’s also some hiring with smaller businesses, but to a lesser extent,” he said.
Job numbers don’t reveal the entire seasonal job-boon picture, according to Segarini. There is also a shadow-stimulus brought on by increased hours for existing employees, who find themselves working more due to the holiday traffic.
That is, if they’re lucky.
Wal-Mart is one example of this, where seasonal workers aren’t typically hired in favor of giving existing employees more hours.
Temporary and permanent employees are working to get the finishing touches put on the long-awaited Lowe’s Home Improvement Store before its Dec. 27 opening, store officials said.
Installers can now apply for temporary work to ready the 94,000 square foot store for its public debut, said Operations Manager Dale Schenstrom.
The date was adjusted from a tentative soft opening on Christmas Eve, Schenstrom said.
“There was a tentative opening date put out by the corporate office and given to us, and it was going to be the 24th,” Schenstrom said. “Since, it’s been moved and firmed up to the 27th.”
Although Lowe’s is opening after the Christmas season, the store hopes to be a destination for major holidays and occasions said store spokeswoman Stacey Lentz.