County needs to repay cities for fees collected
Now that the state Supreme Court has refused to hear again the Los Angeles County case regarding counties overcharging cities for property tax collections, Tulare County needs to move quickly to set up a repayment schedule.
Cities in Tulare County also filed suit against Tulare County for a glitch in a state maneuver to help the state out of its budget deficit mess in 2005. The state took away vehicle license fees from counties and cities, and instead gave them property tax revenues. However, the state allowed counties to charge cities for managing the property taxes, and counties charged the cities once for collecting the taxes, but then reportedly charged the cities a second time when those tax revenues were distributed to the cities.
The court ruled that the second charge was not legal.
Now, the debate is how far back must the counties go into refunding the cities, and should any interest be applied. The counties began charging the extra free in the 2005-06 fiscal year, said city officials.
County officials have said they are beginning to meet with cities individually to come up with a settlement. We feel the county needs to refund any excess money charged cities since the practice was begun and nothing less. The city of Porterville feels it is owed $700,000. The question of should the county pay interest is the only part of the repayment that should be negotiated.
We do understand that paying back every city all at once may be a hardship for the county, even though some money has been set aside. Hopefully, all the cities can get a lump sum partial payment now, and then the county can pay back the balance over a few years. We know the county has set aside some money to repay the cities, but not enough to cover the entire bill.
This is not a mess created by the counties, but by our state government as one of its tricks to solve its budget woes, but it is up to the counties to now make it right