Thanks to a state program, farmers enrolled in the Williamson Act may end up paying 10 percent more in property tax. The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors will decide, probably on Dec. 7, whether to participate in the state program that changes the Williamson Act.
Supervisors will discuss the issue at Tuesday's meeting. They may end up choosing to not participate in the program, according to county staff analyst Phonxay Keokham.
The issue stems from Senate Bill 863, which allows counties a mechanism to recover revenue it lost from the state, which at one time financed the Williamson Act.
The Williamson Act was adopted in 1965 to halt widespread urbanization of agricultural land. Under the program, property owners agree not to urbanize their land. In exchange, the county compensates them for their reduced property value.
Until mid-2009, the state allocated San Joaquin County $1.7 million to partially cover the reduced property value among farmers participating in the Williamson Act.
In 2009, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, though a line-item veto, gutted the state's contribution to the Williamson Act except for $1,000 statewide. San Joaquin County's share was a mere $53.
But this year, the Legislature reinstated $10 million statewide, which includes $447,800 for San Joaquin County.
That still means that the county would have to subsidize the program with about $2 million from its general fund unless it participates in the new state program under SB 863.
If the Board of Supervisors decides on Dec. 7 to participate in SB 863, each farmer in the county would be faced with a reduced tax benefit of about $218 annually, Keokham said.
The San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation opposes the idea.
"We believe this isn't the time to raise taxes," said Bruce Blodgett, the Farm Bureau's executive director. "They can't afford another tax."
SB 863 calls for the Williamson Act contracts to be shortened from 10 years to nine. That means the county assessor would have to reassess the property's value to reflect the shortened term. Therefore, property owners would receive a 10 percent reduction in Williamson Act benefits, Keokham said.
Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting will begin at 9 a.m. in the county administration building, 44 N. San Joaquin St. at Weber Ave., Stockton.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at email@example.com.