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 CITY COUNCIL AGENDA ITEM NO. 8


Meeting Date: May 13, 2008

Subject/Title: Authorize the City Manager or her designee to file a claim against Contra Costa County for the recovery of sums overcharged by the County for the administration of the property tax system.

Submitted by: Kerry Breen, Business Services Manager

Approved by: Pam Ehler, Director of Finance and Information Systems



RECOMMENDATION
Authorize the City Manager or her designee to file a claim against Contra Costa County for the recovery of sums overcharged by the County for the administration of the property tax system.

PREVIOUS ACTION
On March 25, 2008, City Council authorized the Mayor or his designee to sign a letter protesting the Determination of Property Tax Administrative Cost Recovery for 2007/08 and directed staff to send the letter to the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors.

BACKGROUND
In 2004 the California State Legislature was dealing with severe budget deficits. One of their solutions was the implementation of the “Triple Flip” which reduced sales and use tax revenues to cities and replaced those revenues with property taxes. In addition, the State also reduced cities vehicle license fee revenues and once again, backfilled those revenues with property taxes. In effect, the State was able to “borrow” sales tax and vehicle license fee revenues, hold on to them for a while, and pay them back once they collected property taxes.

For the first few years under the triple flip the impact to the City of Brentwood was minimal –we were forced to adjust to a new cash flow schedule and suffered a reduction in interest income as we now waited much longer to receive our revenues.

A larger impact was felt in fiscal year 2006-07 as counties (including Contra Costa County) began including the repayments of the sales tax and vehicle license fee as property tax revenue for purposes of calculating the property tax administration fees they charge back to cities. This inclusion has led to significant increases in property tax administration costs for all cities in Contra Costa County. The City of Brentwood endured a massive 63% increase in fiscal year 2006-07 as County administration charges to the City soared from $58,054 to $94,550 in just one year.

On January 7, 2008 the State Controller’s Office opined that the sales tax and vehicle license fee reimbursements should not be included in the calculation of property tax administration. Staff was optimistic that Contra Costa County would recognize the opinion of the State Controller’s Office but was disappointed when on February 26, 2008, the County issued their proposed fees for 2007/08 and once again included the sales tax and vehicle license fee repayments as property taxes for the purposes of calculating administration. These higher property tax calculations have resulted in a proposed administration charge of $130,003 for 2007/08.

The filing of a claim against the County will help preserve the City’s standing to reclaim the overcharged fees. In the past few weeks, the City of San Pablo and the City of Clayton have filed similar claims against Contra Costa County. Staff has also heard from several other cities who are considering filing their own claims against the County.

FISCAL IMPACT
There is no fiscal impact associated with this action. If the County removes sales and use tax and vehicle license fee adjustment amounts from their calculation of property tax administration charges the City’s General Fund would save approximately $45,000 on an annual basis.

Attachments:
March 25, 2008 Protest letter sent to the Board of Supervisors of Contra Costa County from Mayor Taylor





OFFICE OF THE MAYOR


March 25, 2008



Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors
651 Pine Street
Martinez, CA 94553-1229

Dear Chair Piepho and Members of the Board:

In fiscal year 2006-07, counties throughout the State (including Contra Costa County) began including Sales and Use Tax (Revenue and Taxation Code section 97.68) and Vehicle License Fee (Revenue and Taxation Code section 97.70) adjustment amounts in their computation of property tax administration cost shares. This inclusion has led to significant increases in property tax administration costs for cities throughout the State. The City of Brentwood has been hit exceptionally hard by this change, having endured a massive 63% increase in fiscal year 2006-07.

While City staff did not agree with the County’s interpretation that the Sales and Use Tax and Vehicle License Fee adjustment amounts should be included in the calculation for administration charges, staff was aware that the State Controller’s Office (SCO) had been asked to weigh in on the issue and elected to wait for their opinion before formally protesting the County’s interpretation.

The SCO legal office offered their opinion in a letter dated January 7, 2008. In this letter, Jeffrey V. Brownfield, Chief of the Division of Audits for the State Controller’s Office stated “As the counties’ assessors and treasurer-tax collectors incur no additional costs in implementing Revenue and Taxation code sections 97.68 and 97.70, SCO legal counsel opined that Sales and Use Tax and Vehicle License Fee adjustment amounts cannot be added to Revenue and Taxation Code section 96.1 and section 100 computed property tax shares in order to determine administrative cost shares. Statutes clearly state that no amount should be charged for administrative services that exceeds the actual cost of providing such services. Legal counsel further opined that counties must maintain separate documentation for Sales and Use Tax and Vehicle License Fee charges, as fees must be based on actual costs and the actual costs relating to each type of charge might differ from one another.”

Staff recently received Contra Costa County’s proposed 2007/08 Property Tax Administrative Cost Recovery fees and were extremely disappointed that the recommendations of the SCO have not been followed. The revenues collected for Sales and Use Tax and Vehicle License Fee adjustments have once again been included the calculation of net revenue per jurisdiction. In a direct contrast to what the SCO opined, this net revenue, inclusive of the additional adjustments, is then used to calculate the property tax administration charges. In addition, no separate documentation for Sales and Use Tax and Vehicle License Fee charges was offered as recommended by the SCO.

We are therefore formally protesting the Determination of Property Tax Administrative Cost Recovery for 2007/08 as scheduled to be heard at a public hearing by the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors at your meeting scheduled for April 8, 2008.

Sincerely,




Robert Taylor
Mayor


Cc: City Council Members
John Cullen, Chief Administrative Officer
City Administration
City of Brentwood City Council
150 City Park Way
Brentwood, CA 94513
(925) 516-5440
Fax (925) 516-5441
E-mail allcouncil@brentwoodca.gov