Tuolumne leaders tackle land tax snafu

Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat

Tuolumne County policymakers could decide Tuesday whether to change an obscure local tax law that is receiving a lot of attention lately.

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to take up a proposal that would require a deposit on property taxes and other fees ahead of a lot line adjustment. County officials supporting the move say it will protect property owners from hidden taxes that could be owed on a new property. But some have questioned why it's necessary and have wondered if it could hinder property sales.

The proposal stems from the fact that parcel maps are officially recorded Jan. 1, while property taxes are owed and payable Feb. 1 and Nov. 1. So when someone buys a portion of a property, it's not on the books with a new parcel number until the beginning of the next year.

Del Hodges, the Tuolumne County assessor and recorder, said there have been multiple instances where the disconnect has led to a new property owner finding out about unknown but significant liens or unpaid taxes that occurred after the sale but before the official recording. In some cases, the money owed has turned out to be tens of thousands of dollars.

Requiring a deposit would prevent this, Hodges has told the board multiple times, as it would cover the amount due through the official recording date. He's also said the policy is used by every other county assessor he has contacted in the state.

But the issue has still been the focus of some extended debate, as multiple supervisors and even the county Chamber of Commerce have raised concerns about a financial burden it would put on property owners looking to make a transaction.

The proposal is scheduled for the board's morning session, which begins at 9 a.m. The board has discussed the proposal twice already and held a public hearing in January on the law change.

Also on Tuesday's agenda for the Board of Supervisors meeting are:

• A public hearing on a proposal to eliminate and/or change a number of the county's planning commissions and committees, which is scheduled for 11 a.m.

• A proposed change to the personnel contract between the county and deputy sheriffs to give the sheriff more discretion over the number, personnel and terms for special assignments like detective, Tuolumne Narcotics Team sergeant, boat patrol and others.

• Discussion of possible future changes to the portion of the county's General Plan dealing with agricultural resources.

The Union Democrat
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