Bakersfield Officials Criticize County in Tax Allocation Dispute; Deemed Larceny

The city of Bakersfield and Kern County are at odds over a tax allocation dispute and Vice Mayor Ken Weir has gone so far as to say “it turns out that Sacramento is not the only financial predator.” Them’s fightin’ words! The complex relationship between the two local governments has gone south because Bakersfield officials are upset that county administrators say they miscalculated the city’s share of property taxes on land annexed to the city. The county has recalculated what its owed and decided to withhold over $2 million to make up for its losses in the past few years.

This clearly didn’t sit well with Bakersfield, as the city argues it will lose out on millions in lost revenue over the coming years, thereby jeopardizing its ability to provide services. So the city has filed a claim against the county and may proceed with a lawsuit. For additional background, the county’s cities have contracts in place that determine how taxes are allocated when unincorporated land is annexed. Bakersfield has pointed out that there have been 180 annexations since 2002, and those annexations have already been approved by the city, the County Administrative Office, and the Board of Supervisors.

City officials are particularly irked that the auditor-controller has unilaterally reversed the allocation of these taxes despite the fact that public votes approved them.

Defending its actions, the county has argued that it has no choice but to correct the miscalculation. County Administrative Officer John Nilon stated: “The City has been unjustly enriched at the expense of vital services to County taxpayers and local schools. The City has sued the County in an unfortunate attempt to keep the money and reverse the Auditor-Controller’s corrections. The county will vigorously oppose the City’s efforts to receive tax revenues that do not belong to the City.”

CAO Nilon and Vice Mayor Weir have even battled in print, with both printing op-eds in the Californian. You can read Nilon’s article here and Weir’s opinion here.

Vice Mayor Weir really doesn’t hold back in response to Nilon’s article. An excerpt of Weir’s op-ed reads:

“Why would they do this without going through the proper and standard public procedures? Because at public meetings, people ask questions and expect answers. The county has already communicated to the city that it is unable to provide any documentation to substantiate its actions. Comments and communications from the county administrative officer offer no insight. They are generally nothing more than gibberish, irrelevant feel-good platitudes, unsubstantiated statements, and the mantra of the day, linked together with ad-nauseam whining and moaning about the services the county has to provide. So, if we take the county's word for it, we are left to believe that multiple auditor-controllers, multiple county administrative officers, and multiple state auditors who routinely audit these agreements have calculated, approved and audited the allocation 180 times over 17 years -- all in error. Not likely!”

Weir goes on to call the county’s actions “larceny.” More background here.

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