The Fresno City Council on Thursday delayed a decision to apply a tax to some new home buyers for police and fire services.
“We’re acquiescing to the county and saying ‘we give up, you win. You don’t have to negotiate with us because we’re going to tax people more rather than getting the appropriate share of property tax.’ “ — Fresno City Councilmember Garry Bredefeld
Councilmembers heard an appeal from Granville Homes president Darius Assemi to remove a tax designation called Community Facilities District 18 on a 71-lot subdivision of rental homes annexed in 2007.
Assemi is the publisher of GV Wire.
Had the CFD 18 designation passed, homeowners in those areas would have paid $164 more annually in property taxes in perpetuity. Apartment and rental builders would pick up the tab to the tune of $112 per unit, something builders said would filter down to higher rents.
For councilmembers, the decision to apply the tax goes beyond that tract of land in southeast Fresno.
Councilmember Garry Bredefeld said the decision to apply the CFD designation would only discourage negotiations with Fresno County on a new tax-sharing agreement.
Watch: The City Council Discussion
“We’re acquiescing to the county and saying ‘we give up, you win. You don’t have to negotiate with us because we’re going to tax people more rather than getting the appropriate share of property tax,’ ” Bredefeld said.
Councilmember Mike Karbassi asked whether that extra assessment would mean extra service.
“This is a general fund service that I think a supermajority of residents in the city don’t pay extra for and now we’re saying… you’re going to pay a lifetime fee or whatever you call for the same level of service,” Karbassi said.
City Manager Georgeanne White said the money would pay for patrols and other services in the areas farther away from the city center.
Assemi asked if people in CFD-18 areas would get faster response times.
“When someone calls 9-1-1, city manager, is there going to be a map that says this is CFD-18, faster service?” Assemi said.
White said it was geography based.
“Farther out, longer response time,” White said.
During the discussion, Karbassi gave direction to the city attorney to initiate the process to kill CFD 18 because it’s a double tax on select new development.
“Is it legally defensible for this council to dissolve the CFD 18? I’m going to request that your office draft that language.” — Councilmember Mike Karbassi, speaking to City Attorney Andrew Janz
Meanwhile, councilmember Miguel Arias said he didn’t want older neighborhoods subsidizing newer ones.
Karbassi said market-rate workforce housing often ends up subsidizing older neighborhoods.
The discussion around whether property taxes in newer parts of town generate enough revenue to pay for emergency services raised more questions than answers, said Fresno City Councilmember Nelson Esparza.
The unanimous decision to wait came with a request for a more in-depth analysis of the cost of police and fire services on the city’s perimeter.
‘One of the Most Important’ Policies to Come from City Council: Chavez
While the decision on whether a special tax is needed in only certain areas is a very technical one, councilmember Luis Chavez said, it is “one of the most important.”
“This conversation that we’re having here today is very technical, very nerdy, I totally appreciate that. But I think it’s one of the most important policies that will come out of this body, because I think we’re going to send a message as to what development will look like in the city of Fresno,” Chavez said.
In December 2022, the council decided to apply the CFD-18 designation to all areas of land annexed into the city of Fresno after 2002.
A study from the city showed that homes in areas annexed from the county after 2002 did not generate enough revenue to pay for police and fire services.
After 2002, the tax-sharing agreement between the city and the county of Fresno changed from the county giving the city 50% of property taxes to 38% of property taxes. White said the terms changed to discourage urban sprawl.
To make up for the shortfall, the CFD-18 designation increases annual property taxes for homes and rental properties.
Karbassi said the amount of time spent discussing the appeal exceeded the amount of time spent when council originally applied the CFD-18 to new areas of the city.
And while it was a difficult decision to make, he said it should be the council that makes that decision instead of the city administration.
“I want to make sure we keep the policy debate on the dais,” Karbassi said.