El Dorado County opens up books to Serrano

Mello-Roos taxes at heart of dispute
By: Raheem Hosseini Telegraph Correspondent
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To settle a long-simmering tax dispute with an El Dorado Hills developer, supervisors decided Aug. 24 to open up its county ledger to Serrano Associates LLC. Builders of a gated community along Serrano Parkway, the company’s claims of being overbilled millions in special property taxes became public in February, when supervisors initially considered bringing in outside experts to weigh in. Serrano claims it has been overpaying special taxes on undeveloped portions of its development project since 2000, to the tune of $3.4 million. “It goes a long way back, I know that,” Kirk Bone, government affairs director for Parker Development Co., which manages the Serrano venture, told The Telegraph in May. “We believe the county has overcharged us on Mello-Roos taxes for a number of years.” Except for $26,785 the county refunded in May, county tax and administrative officials argued the special property taxes, known as Mello-Roos taxes, were levied properly and that the onus was on the claimant for proving errors were made. “Except for those already satisfied portions of the claim, I recommend that the Board deny the claim,” wrote Jonathan Cristy, of law firm Kronick Moskovitz Tiedemann & Girard, in an Aug. 5 memo to the board. Serrano attorney John Murphy fired off his own response to Cristy’s memo. “As discussed in greater detail below, there is very little in the memo with which we can agree,” he wrote. Murphy added that Cristy’s opinion “misstates facts and misconstrues arguments to such an extent that it seems to reflect a desire on the part of its author not to provide you with objective, dispassionate legal advice about how the matter before you might best be considered.” In a 5-0 vote late last month, supervisors decided to give Serrano access to the county ledger going back to the 2004-05 tax year. The company will need to annotate which collections should have been credited against which special taxes and specify the amount it should be refunded, officials said. A deliberation hearing was set for early October, though Serrano needs to have its claim completed and back to the county by Sept. 21.