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Siskiyou County Supervisor Marcia Armstrong and environmental activist Felice Pace exchange opinions on forest taxation act. Start at the bottom of the page....
Both TPZ and the Williamson Act are laws passed by the CA state legislature to encourage open space and conservation of prime ag land and timberlands, rather than residential or other development. They are, in effect, envioronmental laws.
(1)  When the owner enters into the 10 year revolving contract, TPZ land is valued on the basis of its limited use for timber production. Only a select few other compatible uses are allowed. When the actual timber is harvested, deferred timber yield tax is levied by the Bd. of Equalization.
Forest Taxation Reform Act
The Z’berg-Warren-Keene-Collier Forest Taxation Reform Act (Chapter 176, Statutes of 1976) imposed a timber yield tax and a timber reserve fund tax on every timber owner of felled or downed timber in this state. The timber reserve fund tax was rescinded on January 1, 1983. This act changed the existing system of taxing both timber and land on which timber is growing. Beginning with the 1977-78 fiscal year, land which is primarily devoted to growing and harvesting timber is zoned for a minimum 10-year period as timberland production zone (TPZ) and valued for property tax purposes on the basis of its use for timber production. Timberland value schedules were set by the State Board of Equalization at three-year intervals through fiscal year 1984-85, and thereafter modified annually according to a revised formula. Timber is not subject to annual ad valorem taxation but is taxed at the time of its harvest, based upon harvest value schedules for the location of harvest. Adjustments to the timber tax rate must be made to keep it consistent with the rate used for ad valorem taxation. From 1982 to 2000, the timber yield tax rate has been 2.9 percent. “Timber” means trees of any species including Christmas trees but does not mean nursery stock. Taxable operations include harvesting for fuel, wood, poles, pilings, and split products, as well as for logs.

(2) Williamson Act, The farmer enters into the 10 year revolving contract to keep the land in ag use, he/she is given a reduction in taxes. This reduces the taxes to the County, so the state sends Siskiyou County approx. $769,000 a year to make up for the loss.

from the desk of Felice Pace
Klamath, Ca.   

August 6, 2008
To the Editor:

In a recent published commentary ( http://www.klamathbasincrisis.org/MarciaArmstrong/congressionalrep071908.htm ) Siskiyou County Supervisor Marcia Armstrong made this statement:

"The federal government pays PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes). This is a formula based on the limited value of federal lands in the early 1900s when the National Forests were created. As an example, in fiscal year 2005 the federal payment to the county was $0.37 per acre. If these lands were taxed they would return about $1.48 per acre to the county."

I was curious about the $1.48 per acre figure so I contacted both the Siskiyou County Tax Collector and the Siskiyou County Assessor. What I learned is that since Proposition 13 bare land is taxed at 1% of assessed valuation. So, if a piece of forest land were assessed at $250 per acre, the tax rate would be $2.50 per acre. This would be split between the county, school districts and the state. So, the county might get $1.48 per acre.

But this is not the whole story. If national forest lands in Siskiyou County were privatized they would likely be enrolled with the county as Timber Production Zone (TPZ) or under the Williamson Act. Either way the taxes would be much less. Most private forest land in Siskiyou County enrolled in TPZ currently pays $.074 per acre in taxes – or about 5% what the national forest lands yield in PILT per acre. The highest TPZ rate is $.137 per acre or about 9% of what national forest land yields in PILT.

If the federal forest land in Siskiyou County was privatized and enrolled under the Williamson Act it would likely yield as much as $.30 per acre in property taxes (the exact amount depends on the assessed value). This is still less than the current PILT payment.

If these figures are correct – and they were supplied by the Siskiyou County Assessor – it would be in the interest of the county and local school districts from a tax perspective if Siskiyou County's vast private timber lands were converted into national forests.

Why is it that Marcia Armstrong complains about the public forest PILT but not about the low amount of taxes paid by industrial timberland owners?  And why is it that media outlets in Siskiyou County do not ask the sort of questions I have asked about Marcia's wild assertions?

Via e-mail
Felice Pace
Felice Pace
Klamath, CA 95548

Congressional representation on (Klamath dam) issues, July 11, 2008, Ridin Point, by Siskiyou County Supervisor Marcia Armstrong

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