Fresno County Assessor/Recorder Paul Dictos
Written by Donald A. Promnitz
Paul Dictos, the Fresno County assessor/recorder, is speaking out against Comcast’s appeals of its property tax liability.
In a letter to Comcast CEO Brian L. Roberts, Dictos denounced the appeals by the communications company in Fresno County, referring to them as “frivolous.” Over the last seven years, Dictos wrote that Comcast’s tax agent has appealed the assessments on the company’s properties and equipment in Fresno County seven times.
“In a county whose agricultural-based economy has been devastated by the droughts of the past five years,” Dictos wrote, “such delays in collecting rightfully owed tax dollars are devastating to our citizens, who also happen to be your customers.”
According to Dictos, the current valuation of Comcast’s real property and equipment in Fresno County is $169 million, which is taxed at a rate of 1 percent. The current appeal from Comcast places its own value $69.7 million, a nearly $100 million difference. One of the appeals proposed reducing the valuation of Fresno County property equipment with an assessed worth of $50 million (a tax rate of $500,000) to zero.
The assessor’s office has two years to schedule a hearing for the appeal. If they are late, the office will have to pay Comcast back the difference for the taxes paid.
While stressing that Comcast is paying its taxes, Dictos has referred to these appeals as a lack of “tax conscience.”
“I keep saying that property taxes are the glue that allows our local government to maintain civilization,” Dictos said. “If it wasn’t for property taxes, we wouldn’t have police protection…a big part of it comes out of here.”
In regards to the complaints by Dictos’ office, Comcast released a brief statement:
“Comcast appealed a property tax evaluation,” they said, “which is a routine administrative practice when we believe the assessment is too high.”
Dictos, however, argued that over the last six years, Comcast has reportedly withdrawn its appeal after the assessor’s office scheduled a hearing. He further pointed to a letter by Roberts to Comcast’s shareholders that the company is in fact growing and has never been stronger with its acquisition of NBC Universal.
“In fact, our stock has returned 230 percent since we joined forces,” the letter said, “which is more than double the return of the S&P 500 over the same time period.”
“When you come in here and you appeal, that’s fine,” but when it’s a frivolous appeal, it takes me away from my every day work,” Dictos said. “We only have so many hours to work every day — eight hours a day — we have limited staff, so [if] you have waste my time on something that is not right and frivolous, I get upset.