Merced County California

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Sb 863 Modifications To Williamson Act Contracts For 2011 Approved By The Merced County Board Of Supervisors On December 14, 2010.
Two Central Provisions of SB 863:
  • Contract length will be reduced from 10 years to 9 years
  • Landowners’ tax benefits will be reduced by 10%

The California Land Conservation Act of 1965, commonly referred to as the Williamson Act, enables local governments to enter into contracts with private landowners for the purpose of restricting specific parcels of land to agricultural or related open space use.  In return, landowners receive property tax assessments which are lower than normal because they are based upon farming and open space uses as opposed to full market value.  Local governments have historically received annual subvention payments of forgone property tax revenues from the State via the Open Space Subvention Act of 1971.

As a result of Governor Schwarzenegger’s recent decision to eliminate State financial support for the Williamson Act program, two bills were passed providing a short-term solution to fund the program without using State dollars.  AB 2530, signed by the Governor on September 25, 2010, and subsequently replaced by SB 863, signed on October 19, 2010, provides an opportunity for Counties to offset a portion of the loss of Williamson Act Subvention funds by reducing the term of the Williamson Act contracts from ten years to nine years as of January 1, 2011. The reduction in contract term would also reduce a landowner’s property tax savings and allow the resulting increased revenues to be transferred directly into the County’s General Fund to help partially offset the lost revenue to the County.  SB 863 is a temporary solution that will sunset in 2015.

How Will This Affect Your Taxes?

A calculator has been created by the Assessor that can provide an estimate of the property tax you currently save through participation in the Williamson Act and what the estimated difference may be with the approved SB 863 modifications next year. Please follow the link to access the calculator. You will need your Assessor’s Parcel Number from your latest tax bill to complete the calculator process.

Option To Non-Renew

If a landowner does not wish to participate in the contract revisions authorized under SB 863, they have the option to place their contract into non-renewal, initiating a nine year period during which the contract and corresponding tax reduction would terminate.  Landowners may request non-renewal during a special period through February 18, 2011, which will be considered filed timely and in effect for January 1, 2011.  Any non-renewal requests submitted after February 18, 2011 will be considered effective beginning January 1, 2012.  In addition, the fee for non-renewal will be waived until February 18, 2011.

If you have any questions regarding the Williamson Act, SB 863, or non-renewal process, please call the Planning and Community Development Department at (209) 385-7654, and Dial “0” for Operator. If you have any questions related to your property tax assessment, please contact the County Assessor at (209) 385-7631.

You can also determine your estimated property taxes under the Williamson Act and proposed SB 863 changes by following the link to the calculator.

Additional Information

For additional information regarding the changes to the Williamson Act program, please click on one of the following links:

December 15th, 2010 Decision Notice to Landowners

Notice of Non-Renewal Application Package

Senate Bill SB 863

Frequently Asked Questions – California State Association of Counties

Property Tax Calculator

Merced County 2222 M Street Merced, CA 9543 Ph. (209) 385-7434 Toll Free (800) 226-6452