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New library tax on ballot

By From page A1 | August 01, 2012

The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a ballot measure to establish a special tax to support library services.

If approved by voters in November, the tax would apply a uniform library assessment on all parcels and replace the library taxes already assessed.

Currently Cameron Park charges a $25 benefit assessment on each dwelling unit with no annual price index adjustment. In El Dorado Hills residents also pay a $25 special parcel tax without an annual price index adjustment. In South Lake Tahoe and Georgetown property owners pay a $17.20 special parcel tax adjusted annually to the Consumer Price Index for a maximum increase of 3 percent. The library assessments in South Tahoe and Georgetown both expire in 2015. There is no tax or assessment supporting the main library in Placerville.

Library Director Jeanne Amos said the countywide assessment was needed for reasons of fairness, to prevent further draw-down on the library’s fund balance and to ensure continued funding once the tax measures in South Tahoe and Georgetown expire in 2015. The tax would also ensure a consistent level of library services and to consolidate and simplify the current library tax structure, Amos explained.

The uniform library tax, if approved, would go into effect in the fiscal year 2013-14 and would expire after 15 years. The base tax would be $17.58 per parcel; for multi-family residential dwelling units it would be 80 percent of the base tax; for parcels containing mobile home parks it would be 50 percent of the base tax per mobile home; for unimproved parcels it would be 50 percent of the base tax; and for timeshares it would be $1. Parcels of land developed with churches, cemeteries or schools would be exempt.

Any increase in the tax would be based on the CPI for the San Francisco area, but would not exceed 3 percent in any given year. The base tax would never exceed $25 per taxable parcel.

The measure evoked considerable discussion among board members regarding taxing undeveloped property. Supervisor Ray Nutting noted that some parcels in the county can’t be developed because of their slope and that taxing land that is currently being used for agriculture or ranching may push owners into developing the property instead. Deputy county counsel Dave Livingston responded by saying that the board couldn’t create an exemption from taxation for undeveloped property. “It can’t be zero,” he said.

The issue of taxing timeshares was also a first for the board. County Assessor Karl Weiland said there are different kinds of timeshares with some people owning a share in a piece of property and others buying the use of a property owned by others. Supervisor Norma Santiago wanted to define what a timeshare is in such a way that all timeshare owners were included in the tax.

However, because of the need to move the measure forward due to an Aug. 10 deadline to get it on the ballot, the board settled for the ballot measure as written and for using the existing tax roll to determine who would receive the bill for the assessment if it passes.

The El Dorado County library system consists of six community libraries tied together with central administrative, technological and programmatic functions.

Total library operations for 2012-13 are $3.3 million. Fifty-five percent of funding comes from taxes and revenues and 45 percent from the General Fund. If approved, the tax measure would result in a net increase in tax revenue of $180,000 for the library system.

Two-thirds of county voters would have to approve the new tax measure for it to go into effect.

Dawn Hodson

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