COMMENTARY: Part III: Property Taxes – The Bottom Line

“For government the answer is money, now what’s the question?” – Reb Monaco, former SBC Supervisor

As pointed out in Part II, there are four board groups that have a call on property taxes; the cities, the county, the schools, and other districts and a group can have many taxing entities within them. In many cases, property taxes are not the only source of funding, but more than $68 million a year for San Benito County is not peanuts. Each county tax distribution by group is independent. San Francisco (both a city and a county) and a few counties with no cities are harder to compare to those with all groups, but I will try.

Within each county total city distributions range from a rounded high of 59 cents per dollar in Alameda County to low of 1 cent per dollar in 8 counties. San Benito distributes 2 cents total to its two cities; the state average is 6 cents per county.

The distributions going directly to the county coffers ranged from 62 cents in Alpine County to 6 cents in Orange County. San Benito County puts 11 cents per dollar in the County General Fund; the state average was 18 cents.

The four special cases San Francisco, Alpine, Trinity, and Mariposa counties, had combined city-county distributions of 59, 62, 29, and 25 cents respectively.  San Benito’s combined city-county distribution was 13 cents, the lowest in the state and only half the state average; blame our unique structure and the RDA.

San Benito’s school (education) distribution was 63 cents including ERAF, slightly higher than the state average of 59 cents. Our 'other districts' distribution was 25 cents, more than half of that to the RDA, the state average was 15 cents.

The 12 top taxing entities for San Benito receive a total of 94 cents of each tax dollar, the other 30 entities get a slice of the remaining 6 cents. Here is how the top 12 stack up in rounded cents: San Benito High School 17 cents; Hollister RDA and Hollister Elementary 13 cents each; ERAF (education augmentation) 12 cents; County General Fund 11 cents; Aromas/San Juan Unified 10 cents; Gavilan Community College 7 cents; North County Elementary and the category County Schools 3 cents each; San Benito Hospital District 2 cents; and the City of Hollister and the state fire contract 1 cent each.

The smallest is New Idria Elementary (or its remaining expenses/debts) which receives a rate of 0.000821067 of a penny.

Run each decimal out against the total tax levy of $68.3 million – leaving out some other costs – and the rounded results are: San Benito High School (the top property tax recipient) $11.4 million; Hollister RDA and Hollister Elementary $9.0 million each; ERAF (education augmentation) $8.3 million; County General Fund $7.4 million; Aromas/San Juan Unified $6.5 million; Gavilan Community College $4.8 million; No. County Elementary and County Schools $2.3 million each; San Benito Hospital District $1.4 million; and the City of Hollister and the State Fire Contract about $0.9 million each. New Idria Elementary? $561.

There you have it. That is how our property taxes are distributed and how it compares to other counties. The next time someone says, “The County only gets 11 cents on the dollar,” you’ll know exactly what they are talking about and where the rest went.

Marty Richman

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Marty (Martin G.) spent his teen years in northern New Jersey. He served more than 22 years on active military duty, mostly in Europe, and is a retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4, Nuclear Weapons Technical Officer. Marty then worked 25 years in various engineering and management positions in the electronics and energetic materials industries supporting the communications, computer, aerospace, defense and automotive sectors. He is a graduate, summa cum laude, from The College of Hard Knocks, among his numerous awards and accomplishments. He was a regular weekly Op/Ed columnist and feature writer for The Hollister Free Lance for seven years and a member of its editorial board for five years. Marty is a frequent commentator and contributor to BenitoLink on a wide variety of local, state, national and international subjects.   Marty was elected to represent the City of Hollister District 4 on the City Council in November, 2018. Marty and his wife, Joyce, have been residents of Hollister since 1996.