Written by The Business Journal Staff
Paul DIctos, Assessor-Recorder
What we do:
We evaluate taxable properties ensuring equal treatment for all homeowners, businesses and agricultural taxpayers.
We maintain official records to provide a public record and to give constructive notice of transactions relating to real property in Fresno County. We serve as the local registrar of marriages and keep birth and death records for Fresno County. We make records available to the public for property searches and for genealogical research.
Fresno State – B.S. in Accounting
I have been married to my wife Stella for 46 years. We have two daughters, a son and eight grandchildren
How did you come to your position as Fresno County Assessor/Recorder, Paul?
I’ve always believed it important to give back to my community. After a few attempts to pursue public service through elected office, my supporters encouraged me to run for the vacant Fresno County assessor-recorder seat. They thought that my private sector experience as a CPA was needed in that office. Today I am proud to say that I am the first Greek immigrant to be elected to this office.
What does it say about American opportunities that you came here as a Greek immigrant with almost nothing to winding up in such a high profile position, Paul?
The American Dream is a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success and upward mobility achieved through hard work. America provides everyone with the opportunity, according to one’s ability or achievements, regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.
I came to Fresno at the age of 23, with broken English and $25. I moved into a poor, run-down neighborhood. I worked as a gardener and put myself through school with the help of student loans while my wife was selling Avon. I love America. I love Fresno and its people. Fresno is my home. I’ve lived here for 46 years. My life is proof that the American dream is alive and well.
What was the reason that you came to the U.S.?
My father, the late Rev. Eddie Dictos, fleeing from the Turkish atrocities in Asia Minor, came to Fresno in 1912 and started farming at the age of 18. He became a naturalized citizen, received a divinity degree from Southern California Bible College (now Vanguard University), and in 1930, he was sent to Greece to minister the Gospel. Upon his retirement, he brought his family back to Fresno, a place he loved because it reminded him of the village he grew up in Asia Minor.
Why is the assessor/recorder’s office so important to Fresno County, Paul?
The assessor compiles the tax roll and the tax collector collects the taxes. The assessor’s responsibility is to determine accurate assessment values on real and business property. The county assessor oversees a $61-billion assessment roll and a staff of 127 (including the recorder’s office). One percent of that — $610 million dollars — is distributed to:
The 15 cities in Fresno County
K-12 school districts
Fresno County Office of Education
Community college districts
The job of the assessor is to ensure he does his job as efficiently as possible. Assessors are independent of the politicians that spend the money assessors generate. They covet their independence. As an assessor, my loyalty is to the taxpayers, and my job is to give them a fair valuation.
The recorder keeps accurate documentation of all important records of grants of land and vital records, births, deaths, marriages as well as deeds and things like that. The office provides a mechanism for anyone to search property to determine ownership of property and liens that may affect property rights, while the vital statistics ensures that Fresno County gets the representation it deserves in the state and national legislatures.
Has the value of Fresno County’s taxable properties changed much in the last few years, Paul? How so?
During the recent great recession, all property owners experienced reductions in homeowner equity, but 42 percent of property owners saw declines so severe that the market value dropped below their purchase price. These property owners received temporary reductions in their property taxes in accordance with Proposition 13’s companion initiative Proposition 8; both were passed by voters in 1978.
As we are coming out of the recession we see single-family home and condominium values up an average of 10-20 percent. This is great news for property owners whose home is likely their single most valuable asset. A significant increase in homeowner equity is always welcome news.
What kind of land has seen the most change, Paul?
As residential and commercial properties declined, agricultural land has seen a dramatic increase in value. The increase is due primarily to increased demand for land, increases in crop prices, foreign investors seeking a higher return on their capital and an increase in the demand for food. Most of the activity occurred along the west side of Fresno County in the Westlands Water District. Values of almond orchards ranged from $15,000 to $20,000 per acre, an increase of 10-40 percent in comparison with 2011. The trend for pistachio orchards was even more impressive, ranging from $15,000 to $33,000 per acre, representing increases of 25-50 percent over the values reported for 2011. Walnut orchards have also seen dramatic price increases.
What progress has been made in acquiring a new computer system to replace the file-based method of storing and updating property records?
I promised the taxpayers that I would replace the county’s 50-year-old property assessment system. Today, 29 months into my first term, I am proud to announce that my staff and I decided on a new state-of-the-art system. Presently we are in negotiations with the vendor and expect to be on line within the next 24 months. We must utilize technology to our advantage to remain competitive in this highly technological world.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it, Paul?
While first-generation Greek immigrants typically worked in restaurants, my first job was as a gardener. Working in 110-degree weather I realized that if I wanted to live the American dream, I had to go to school. I am glad I did.
What do you do in your spare time, Paul?
When I don’t work, I spend quality time at home taking care of my wife, Stella, who is suffering from the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. This is a commitment I made 46 years ago — in sickness and in health — and though it’s hard to see happen, I am proud to fulfill. When I get to have spare time, I spend it bonding with my grandchildren.