FAIRFIELD — Solano County industries, businesses and residents are contesting $10.2 billion in assessed value, with Genentech alone contesting more than $5.6 billion for its Vacaville plant.
This is a cumulative total over 11 years and involves 771 properties. By comparison, the entire assessed value for all Solano County properties in 2014-15 is $44 billion.
At stake is how much the various parties must pay in property tax. Also at stake is how much Solano County, its cities and schools might lose in property tax revenue for local services. The $10.2 billion represents about $100 million in tax money.
The appellants have been paying taxes based on the county assessments while they contest the amounts. Should they win their appeals, the county and other local agencies would have to refund a corresponding amount of property tax money or give credits in coming years.
But Assessor Marc Tonnesen said people should take that $10.2 billion figure for “at risk” assessed value with more than a grain of salt.
“A shaker of salt,” he said.
He used Genentech as an example. The county in 2013-14 put the assessed value for its Vacaville plant at $959 million. Tonnesen said that figure is based on an appraisal.
Genentech put the worth at $337 million. But, Tonnesen, said, an appellant can put any number on the appeals form and that number does not have to be based on an appraisal. When and if the case goes to the county Assessment Appeals Board, Genentech would have to have present a figure that it could justify.
Of the $10.2 billion under appeal, Genentech has appealed $5.6 billion for the Vacaville plant and $307 million for its Dixon plant. Shiloh Wind II LLC has appealed $1.1 billion for Montezuma Hills wind farms since 2009 and Valero $1.6 billion for its Benicia refinery since 2012. All other outstanding appeals over the past 11 years total $1.4 billion.
Genentech officials didn’t respond to a request for comments.
Auditor-Controller Simona Padilla-Scholtens in 2006 began impounding some tax money in case Solano County was to lose a portion of the Genentech appeal. She recently began impounding money for the Valero appeal. The total in the impound fund is $28 million.
The Genentech Vacaville plant was in a redevelopment agency district, prior to the state dissolving redevelopment agencies in 2012. Should the county end up retaining all the assessed value for the plant, most of that $28 million would go the Successor Agency for the Vacaville Redevelopment Agency to be distributed to the county, Vacaville, the Vacaville School District and special districts in the Vacaville area.
For some Solano County supervisors, the wait in the Genentech case is too long. Supervisor Skip Thomson at the June 23 county budget hearing said the $28 million that is impounded could be used for services.
“I would encourage the assessor to be aggressive with this,” Thomson said.
Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Linda Seifert asked what the county can do to force a resolution.
County Counsel Dennis Bunting said the Board of Supervisors can ask Tonnesen to set a hearing for the case before the county Assessment Appeals Board. But a hearing could take months and the county can’t recover legal costs associated with the appeal, he said. He held out hope for a settlement.
“I know this is difficult, but eventually they come to the table, we think,” Bunting said.
San Mateo County has also had difficulties reaching agreements with Genentech over the assessed value of the Genentech plant in that county. In 2011, San Mateo County reached a settlement with Genentech for property taxes the company paid from 1990 to 1999. The county agreed to credit Genentech $26.5 million annually in future property taxes for six years.
Seifert renewed her call for state legislation to put more time limits on the appeals process and to allow counties to recover costs, should they prevail.
“The law favors the taxpayer, whether we like it or not,” Bunting said.
Tonnesen said he plans to ask the Assessment Appeals Board to conduct a status conference to bring Genentech to the chambers and restart talks.
“I plan to put a lot of focus of this,” Tonnesen said. “Genentech is the number one priority, getting it moving. I’d love to have it resolved.”
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.