A bill that would let Stanislaus County hold on to a little more of its property tax revenue is on its way to the governor's desk.
The fix, however, works only if property values start to rise. They've fallen for two years.
State Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, took aim at fallout from the passage of Proposition 13, the 1978 initiative that limits property tax increases, when he submitted Senate Bill 85.
The legislative wrangling after the property tax initiative passed left Stanislaus and several other rural counties shortchanged, sending a share of their property tax revenue to schools.
The county estimates that it has paid $52 million to schools that it should have kept since 1982, according to a Senate analysis of Cogdill's bill.
The legislation would place a two-year cap on those school payments for six rural counties, giving them a reprieve as they struggle with deep budget cuts. The state would have to backfill the money to schools.
After the cap expires, Stanislaus would have to start sending money to schools again. The amount increases in proportion with property values.
County officials want a lasting change in how the state distributes property tax revenue, but they were pleased when Cogdill's bill cleared the Senate this week by a unanimous vote. They stand to gain about $400,000 over the next two years.
"Sen. Cogdill's been working really hard on this, and the final version came out to be a two-year freeze," Stanislaus County Supervisor Vito Chiesa said. "We appreciate anything, but we're still in the hole for millions for a fair and equitable system and we're going to continue on for a permanent fix."
Valley lawmakers twice have written similar bills that passed the Legislature but were vetoed by governors.
"This measure takes a significant step forward in reversing an inequity that has put small counties at a financial disadvantage," Cogdill said. "This help couldn't come at a more crucial time as counties currently grapple with difficult local budget reductions."
Bee Assistant City Editor Adam Ashton can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2366.