Public Hearing Oct. 26, 2010 on 'farmed forest' (10-26-2010)

At 10:45 a.m. today, October 26, 2010 a California couple will likely receive approval of their Current Use Timber application from the county Council. They have been incorrectly receiving a tax break for farming the wooded acres. Now they will be receiving a 90 percent property tax break once it enters the Current Use Timber Program.

What does this mean to you? Picture taxes as a restaurant bill. You are out to dinner with four friends. One says I'll pay 10 percent of what my meal costs, another says I'll pay half of my tab, another says I'll pay 65 percent of mine, and the fourth kicks in 10 percent of hers. The restaurant tab still needs to be paid. Guess who gets stuck with the bill.

It's the same way with the Current Use programs. When the tax breaks are taken by some, others have to make up the difference.

The state created these worthy programs in the best interest of everyone. However, they need to be monitored. And they need to be administered judiciously. San Juan County does an inadequate job of monitoring compliance. Its public benefit rating system used to administer the program is overly generous and allows for double dipping.

Assessor Charles Zalmenek has requested additional staff in order to monitor the program. The council did not budget the staff last year and Council members Richard Fralick and Rich Peterson have said they do not intend to do so for 2011.

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