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Vice mayor alone in protest of county contract
ceres city council
Vice Mayor Couper Condit (right) was the lone man opposing a routine contract with the county to collect and disperse assessments -- just to send a message.

It’s routine for the cities in Stanislaus County to contract with county government to collect assessments within their own special districts. Cities typically don’t have the staff to do the laborious task and it’s easier for the county since it already collects property taxes.

But on Monday a lone member of the Ceres City Council balked at the practice, which was been in place since 2001, for a different reason.

Vice Mayor Couper Condit said he wasn’t “comfortable” approving a five-year agreement because the cities haven’t negotiated with the county on the sharing of property taxes. The last agreement was approved in 1996 and Condit called it a “lopsided” arrangement with the county getting 70 percent and the city 30 percent of the new tax increment. The county received 100 percent of the base property tax, said City Manager Tom Westbrook.

Finance Director Leticia Dias said if the county doesn’t do the work then city staff would have to manually bill each parcel within the Landscape and Lighting Districts and the Community Facilities Districts.

 “I just don’t feel comfortable moving forward with this agreement until we get that process straightened out and more equitable for the cities throughout the county,” said Condit. “I know the agreement is a little different than what I am talking about now but I think we ought to send the county a message.”

Councilman Bret Silveira noted the issues were vastly different and motioned to approve the agreement, which was approved in a 3-1 vote.