More Nakoma taxes paid; penalties still an issue
County coffers were recently replenished with a second check in the amount of $235,508 from Nakoma Associates LP (NALP) for the payment of back taxes on Gold Mountain assets purchased from bankruptcy last April. This reduces the outstanding tax bill for the Nakoma Golf Resort to $440,000 and brings the total of Nakoma Associates’ tax payments to $440,500, a halfway mark.
Along with the reduced assessments to clubhouse and golf course, County Assessor Chuck Leonhardt lowered values on the villas based on the relief that was extended to the owners of individual villa interests. That recalculation of five “parcels,” which had just been implemented during the writing of part one of this series, resulted in a decrease of $35,263 in their total tax liability.
Between the recalculation of timeshares and villas and the lowering of assessment values of the clubhouse and the golf course, a total of about $95,500 has been shaved off the Nakoma tax bill since its sale to Nakoma Associates.
But, according to Isaac Rothschild, attorney for the Schomac Group, the bulk of NALP’s dissatisfaction stems from interest that has been accruing from 2004 and 2005.
In a letter to Plumas County Counsel Craig Settlemire, Rothschild suggests a couple of approaches that the county might consider. Although generally constrained from going back further than three years, NALP’s attorney found that the county could cancel penalties and charges if the delinquency was due to reasonable causes and circumstances beyond the taxpayer’s control.
“The failure to pay the taxes as they came due was clearly beyond the control of NALP as it was not the owner of the land at the time the tax became delinquent and continued to incur penalties and interest, creating new delinquencies,” said Rothschild.
County counsel responded, “If we accept your argument that the failure of a predecessor in interest to pay taxes before they became delinquent is beyond the control of the current owner of the property, every purchaser at a foreclosure sale, bankruptcy sale, or any purchaser subject to taxes would be entitled to a waiver. It is our understanding that your client knowingly bought the property from the bankruptcy trustee as to the accrued taxes, penalties, and interest and undoubtedly received a lower price giving credit for such encumbrances.”
The second proposal, wrote Rothschild, would be for NALP to pay the entire tax liability, if there were an agreed-upon settlement with regard to future tax credits or agreed-upon refund in place prior to payment.
Settlemire responded that in regard to seeking a refund based on an alleged error in the assessment, the Plumas County assessor had already lowered values on the clubhouse and golf course as well as the villas. “The assessor does not expect to make any further changes.”
Settlemire then reviewed the process that the county follows: first the taxes must be paid in full, then an appeal for a refund can be filed with the Board of Equalization (i.e., Board of Supervisors). NALP should provide any facts showing any errors in assessment and provide that documentation for staff review.
“While the decision to issue a refund and enter into a settlement is for the board alone, staff may evaluate the evidence and determine the recommendation that may be made to the board,” he finished.
In a follow-up e-mail written prior to Plumas County’s response, Rothschild declared, “At this time, the Schomac Group is prepared to pay all unpaid taxes regardless of whether any future agreement is reached; hopefully, this will provide some relief to the county.”
There was a big “however”: “However, the payment of all the taxes and especially the accrued penalties and interest will deplete the working capital for Nakoma Golf Resort. If an agreement cannot be reached with regard to future tax credits, the Nakoma Golf Resort will be forced to close the golf resort. The Schomac Group will change roles from an operator to a land speculator waiting for times to get better before any more money is invested into the property,” Rothschild wrote.
So, in summation, the Plumas County Board of Supervisors cannot meet as the Board of Equalization to review the case until a formal appeal has been filed. A formal appeal for a refund cannot be filed until the taxes are paid in full.
As of press time, Plumas County Administrative Officer Jack Ingstad reported that no such appeal had been filed with the county.