Solano County

Supervisors discuss Solano assessor’s office staffing

By From page A1 | February 21, 2013

FAIRFIELD — County supervisors could further explore whether the assessor’s office has enough employees to keep current with property values that generate tax revenue for the county, cities, schools and special districts.

Supervisor Skip Thomson raised the topic at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting during the midyear budget update. The board as a whole has yet to indicate it’s ready to add employees at a time when the county faces budget difficulties.

“I’m a bit dismayed at how this department has fallen behind,” Thomson said. “I’m appealing to the board to look very seriously at this department. It is one of the few that generates dollars that we use in our general fund.”

County Assessor-Recorder Marc Tonnesen addressed the board. He listed his department’s priorities as:

  • Doing the property reassessments required under Proposition 8 that allow property owners to get temporary lower assessments with a changing economy. Annual reassessments are required and taxes rise again as home values rebound.
  • Keeping track of properties that change ownership. The assessor’s office uses the data for the Proposition 8 assessments.
  • Defending assessment appeals. About $9.6 billion in assessed value is at risk because of appeals, with some cases involving assessed values over multiple years.

Finally, his department keeps track of construction when staff has time, Tonnesen said. Projects must be assessed within four years, he said.

His department picks up the large projects such as the Meyer warehouse and Lowe’s home improvement store in Fairfield, Tonnesen said. But there are also smaller projects that range from resurfacing a parking lot to building a small addition to remodeling an office building.

His department is reviewing 177 construction permits with a threshold of $400,000 over four years to see what it might have missed, Tonnesen said.

“I’m comfortable I’m meeting my legal mandates,” Tonnesen said Wednesday.

Thomson on Wednesday repeated his concerns, which he said he based on research and talking with assessor’s office employees.

“It’s about fairness that everyone should pay what they’re responsible for in a timely matter,” Thomson said. “Right now, the assessor because of staffing limitations is not doing that.”

That can cause delays to the county, cities, schools and special districts in getting property tax money that they need now, he said.

Although the Board of Supervisors controls the assessor’s office budget, the office is elected. Thomson served as county assessor from 2002 through 2005 and brought Tonnesen to the assessor’s office, with Tonnesen succeeding him as assessor.

Supervisor Erin Hannigan asked Tonnesen to put together a list of what resources he needs. Tonnesen said he is doing this in conjunction with county staff as it puts together a proposed 2013-14 budget.

Supervisor Jim Spering took a more cautious view at a time when the county general fund faces an estimated $14.6 million structural deficit in 2013-14.

“If we’re going to address it, somebody’s going to have to address a dollar amount on it,” Spering said. “I’m not just for hiring additional employees and having to hope we raise additional revenues.”

Thomson noted that Spering previously said he wants to have a redevelopment plan for the county fairgrounds ready now to take advantage of a future economic upturn. When that upturn begins, the assessor’s office needs to be able to track changes of ownership and construction in a timely manner to capture the property tax increases, he said.

“The ball is in Marc’s court now,” Thomson said Wednesday. “He needs to argue why he needs additional staff.”

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.

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