Property tax penalty relief during the COVID-19 crisis
In light of the serious economic impact of the pandemic to so many residents, Supervisor Simitian proposed, along with Board President Cindy Chavez, that the County waive the 10% penalty on second installment property tax payments, including the $20 fee for late payments, that were due on April 10, 2020. The Santa Clara County Board approved this waiver unanimously for taxes due in April 2020. The waiver applied to all property owners with no application needed.
Fees waived at County of Santa Clara parks during COVID-19 crisis
Acknowledging that small things can help during trying times, Supervisor Simitian, joined by Supervisor Mike Wasserman, suggested that the Santa Clara County Park Department waive entrance fees to County Parks for the duration of the COVID-19 shelter-at-home order.
Valley Transportation Authority & Measure B
In 2020, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) announced that most of the Measure B half-cent sales tax increase over the next ten years would go toward extending BART further into San Jose at the expense of other transportation projects that would benefit residents elsewhere in the County. Contending that the plan failed to mitigate traffic congestion and undermined public trust, Supervisor Simitian introduced a resolution opposing VTA's proposed scenario, which was unanimously supported by the County Board of Supervisors. The approved resolution called on the VTA Board of Directors, of which he was a sitting member, to support a new plan to distribute funds more evenly over the next decade among all nine transportation programs, thereby ensuring Countywide benefits as promised in the 2016 ballot measure. That goal was achieved at the December 2021 VTA Board of Directors meeting.
Eliminating fees for property tax assessment appeals
Acknowledging the unfairness of a taxpayer winning a property tax assessment appeal but not receiving a refund of the fee required to file the appeal, Supervisor Simitian led the Board in eliminating the fee for filing an appeal altogether.
In October 2020, and due to Wells Fargo’s documented prior practice of creating over two million fake bank and credit card accounts, Supervisor Simitian questioned County staff about maintaining the County’s operational banking relationship with Wells Fargo & Company. At that time, the County’s five-year contract with Wells Fargo’s for operational banking services was ending, County staff recommended a new five-year contract, however Supervisor Simitian pushed for a one-year contract term and direction to Administration to pursue a new RFP process that also incorporated the County’s social responsibility and anti-fraud contract provisions. The Board of Supervisors agreed and approved this approach.
Eliminating fees for online e-check property tax payments
Supervisor Simitian championed removing a County-imposed fee for taxpayers paying their property taxes online with an e-check because the fee was more than the actual processing cost. The Board agreed, removing the fee entirely. The convenience of an e-check now has more taxpayers paying online, and the County avoids the cost and delay of handling paper checks, as well as the last-minute flood of deadline-driven taxpayers coming into the County office.
Acceptance of partial payments of property tax bills
Before Supervisor Simitian urged Santa Clara County to "do the right thing," a taxpayer who paid less than the total amount of property tax owed, received the payment back with a 10% penalty, plus any applicable fees and charges on the full amount of the now delinquent tax bill. The County now accepts partial property tax payments and the late fee applies only to the unpaid balance, allowing people to make progress even when they can’t pay their whole bill.
County retiree health costs
Upon returning to the Board in 2013, Supervisor Simitian brought attention to a developing crisis with the underfunded liability for Santa Clara County retiree health benefits, which had ballooned 2500% to $1.8 billion during the 12 years he served in the California State Legislature. Caused by the County deferring contributions in order to maintain County services during the economic downturn, Supervisor Simitian led the Board in approving an ordinance binding the County to a 35-year payment plan for debt reduction. By adhering to the approved plan, taxpayer costs for the retiree benefit could be reduced by an estimated $52 million a year and a total of $1.5 billion. Retiring the debt on a set time frame was one of the fiscal policies that helped the County earn strong ratings from the credit ratings agencies. Maintenance of high ratings translates into lower overall interest rates, which in turn bring additional benefits to the taxpayers of the community.
Voting no on a $2 billion tax increase
Supervisor Simitian cast a deciding vote against putting a measure on the November 2018 ballot to raise the County’s sales tax by a half cent. His vote against the measure was made for two reasons: the County budget had increased to a much greater extent than the County population had during the previous five years; and the sales tax is regressive, impacting lower income residents the hardest. Additionally, Measure B, a sales tax increase for transportation projects had just been approved in 2016, as well as state-authorized twelve cent per gallon increase in the gas tax.