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Mr. SPEAKER: Your committee, appointed to inquire into the facts in relation to the alleged under-valuation of property in Kern County, beg leave to submit the following report:

The Assessor of Kern County, R. R. Donnell, appeared before your committee upon written request of the Chairman, and was duly examined as to matters appertaining to his official acts. A copy of the questions propounded and answers given accompanies this report, and your committee would most respectfully ask that five hundred copies of this report and testimony be printed for distribution among the taxpayers of the State, to the end that they may judge for themselves whether or not our system of assessment and equalization is adequate to meet their demands, and further to enable them to judge whether or not our present laws are complied with.

Your committee, after a careful examination of the testimony elicited before them, are of the opinion that, although the Assessor of Kern County may not have been guilty of any intention to do injustice to any of the taxpayers of his county, or to unjustly favor others, or to violate or evade any of our laws, yet it would seem to us that a system of assessment so loose as that shown by the testimony elicited is open to very great censure the fact of an Assessor feeling that he discharged his duty under the law, when he unhesitatingly states, under oath, before your committee, that in many cases he had no personal knowledge of the value of the lands or property assessed, but had fixed the value solely upon the sworn statements as to quality of either the owners or agents.

In view of these facts, your committee are of the opinion that this report and testimony be referred to the Judiciary Committee with instructions to report a bill, and that some law should be passed, at this session of the Legislature, to more fully define the duties of both Assessors and Boards of Equalization, to the end that where a gross neglect of duty shall appear in the official acts of these officers (as we are of the opinion it has been made to appear in the case no before us), the officer so neglecting or refusing to comply with the law shall be made liable to a heavy penalty in shape of a fine and removal from office.

All of which is respectfully submitted.

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TESTIMONY.

SACRAMENTO, February 26th, 1878.

Committee met pursuant to adjournment. Present, Messrs. Sherman, Nealley, Warden, and Forsyth. Minutes of previous meeting read and approved.

Mr. Nealley asked for information regarding the minutes of the meetings being kept secret.

The Chairman stated that he had allowed reporters to be present. Mr. Forsyth could not see any necessity for secrecy.

Mr. Donnell, who was present, asked permission to have a reporter present so as to set himself right before the people of this State with regard to his official acts.

Mr. Forsyth hoped that nothing but facts would be published in regard to the action of this committee.

The Chairman read the resolution under which the committee was appointed. Mr. Forsyth was excused from further attendance for the evening.

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R. R. DONNELL, Assessor of Kern County, sworn: Question-When did you take your office of Assessor of the County of Kern?

Answer—Two years ago next March.
Q.-Have held that office ever since?
A.--Yes, sir.

Q.—What has been your method of arriving at the value of real estate in levying assessments ?

A.--I would first fix valuation of large land holders, and then proceed to fix valuation on all lands accordingly. The large land holders are Haggin, Livermore, Cornwall, and others. Never fixed valuation on real estate until first receiving statement of large land holders; but fixed the valuation myself. Last year Haggin's statement was received with difficulty. Haggin described sections of land, and I fixed valuation according to the sworn statement of Doctor Thornton, Haggin's agent, and rated the valuation of small land owners' land on that basis. I would find out the number of acres, and then grade them according to quality; how much first class, second class or grazing land, and how much waste land. I would fix valuation by taking all classes of land together, and then average all. In this way I thought I would be able to make a fair and equal assessment. I took Bakersfield as a center and assessed land in its immediate vicinity the highest, and further off lessen the value of land, provided it is of as good a quality. In assessing mountain lands it depends on location; first class land range from six dollars to eighteen dollars an acre; assess them according to quality. There was no complaint from small land owners. They compared their assessment with that of Haggin's and were satisfied, but requested that Haggin be not allowed to have his assessment reduced as he did in eighteen hundred and seventy-six. My assessment of land was approved by the people. In eighteen hundred and seventy-six Haggin's and the railroad land were reduced four hundred and fifty

thousand dollars by the Board of Equalization. In cases of complaint, parties filed their complaint and I assisted them in having their assessments reduced according to the valuation set upon Haggin's land. In eighteen hundred and seventy-seven railroad lands were assessed at one dollar and fifty cents per acre. There are lands in Kern County on which no vegetation grows and can never be reclaimed. They are covered with about eight inches of alkali.

Q.--What of personal property ?

A.–The same quality of land assessed alike. In assessing improved land I took the original cost, and then allowed for age and the wear on the improvements. Did not average lands on Kern Island. Land there is worth from three dollars to eighteen dollars an acre. Grazing lands, in eighteen hundred and seventy-six, worth from twentyfive dollars to forty dollars an acre. Land on north side Kern River, worth one dollar and fifty cents an acre; fixed value, at two dollars and fifty cents to four dollars an acre. Township lands in neighborhood of Bakersfield, valued at from twenty dollars to seventy-five dollars an acre.

The land on line of railroad and west of railroad is generally worthless, but some fair. Majority of land was assessed by Board of Equalization at from twenty-five cents to seventy-fivo cents an acre. Lowest in eighteen hundred and seventy-six was railroad land, worth fifty cents an acre. Total acreage of land worthless is one million three hundred and seventy-one thousand nine hundred and ninety-four acres, worth from twenty-five cents to two dollars an acre. Do not know proportion of lands graded. In eighteen hundred and seventy-six fourth class land was assessed fifty cents an acre. Unsurveyed railroad lands are occupied by settlers.

Q: Have you assessed all real property at the same ratio of value?

A.—Yes, sir; quality being considered; lands on Kern Island and in the county are spotted. Rely mostly on description furnished by owners. It is impossible for the Assessor to have a personal knowledge of all lands in the county. Last year the Board of Equalization only allowed three deputies. In assessing stock, one trouble I have is what is called migratory stock. Instructed my deputies to take sworn statements of land rated as first class, grazing lands, waste lands, and low waste lands; value first and second grade, and throw waste land in, and then make a general average. Take the statements of men under oath and list furnished by State Board of Equalization for our government. Do not allow a taxpayer to fix valuation on land. Fix valuation according to location from Bakersfield.

Q.-Have you assessed all personal property at the same ratio of value?

A.--No, sir; I have not. Stock vary. Inferior stock I assess from five dollars to eight dollars a head; that is, for beef stock. I showed a leniency last year in assessing stock, which I considered I was justified in doing, on account of the hard times and the poor condition of the animals. Some stock assessed for more than they cost. Heard of one band of sheep selling for fifteen cents a head, but they varied from twenty cents to thirty cents. I assessed Haggin's sheep for fifty cents, which I afterwards learned he paid thirty-five cents for a short time before, but do not know how long.

Q:- What is your understanding of the word "cash value," as used in the Political Code?

A.-What property would be worth if sold at forced sale. Did not

Q.--Did you the improvements on said lands?
A.-As near as any other property in the county.
Q.-Did you the personal property?
A.-Improvements the same, I did.
Q.-From whom did you get your information as to their value?
A.-From Dr. Thornton.

Q.-Did you not assess these lands at a rate which you considered at the time only about one-fourth of their full cash value?

A.-I did not assess at such figures.

Q.--Do you not think the lands owned by James B. Haggin are worth more than the value at which they were assessed by you?

A.-Compared with other counties my assessment was very liberal. Small taxpayers indorse me in that. The year before they were in

excess.

get Haggin's statement till the last three weeks in June. Have told stock men to withhold their statement until their stock was assured, and some even lost cattle after filing their statement. Have examined the Political Code with regard to the duties of my position. Some lands worth twelve dollars to twenty-five dollars I assessed for twenty-five dollars and thirty dollars an acre. In alfalfa land I made a difference of ten dollars, bringing them to forty-five dollars an acre. Reduced valuation according to distance from center and the quality. Do not think it a low valuation. Do not know what these lands would rent for. With the county oppressed, I would make a reduction of twenty-five to thirty per cent. The year before property was over-assessed, paying a larger proportion of State tax than it ought. Small taxpayers were favored as well as others. When I went in office the business was new to me and to my deputies, and it must be reasonably expected that mistakes would occur, but I tried to correct them as much as possible.

Q.-Have you assessed all real property at its full cash value?

A.-I do not think I have. Bodies of land owned by small owners were valued at probably less than they would be sold for. Assessed lands for twenty-five dollars an acre, which owners would not take fifty dollars for.

Q.-Have you all personal property?
A.-I think I have.

Q--Have you not, as a fact, assessed the property of some taxpayers at a higher ratio of value than that of others ?

A.- No sir, not according to quality and surroundings, with Bakersfield as a center.

Q.-Have you not assessed some property at one-fourth of its cash value?

A-I have not assessed the property of one person higher than that of another, if it is of equal value. The market is not confined to Kern County, and it is easy to reach Bakersfield, the center of trade. A man can make three trips a day to Bakersfield, in its immediate vicinity, but from sixteen to eighteen miles from there, he might not make one trip in three days, therefore land is worth more near there.

Q.--How did you arrive at the value of the lands and real estate owned and claimed by J. B. Haggin?

A.--He gave me a list of property. I'fixed valuation according to distance from Bakersfield, and the quality of the land, with the exception of the land on the north side of the river. This land was averaged at one dollar and seventy-five cents an acre. The land of small owners from five dollars to six dollars. The basis of the average was the valuation fixed by Board of Equalization the year before. Ilaggin's land, on the island, was reduced from fifteen to twenty per cent.

Q.-How, at the value of improvements owned or claimed by him?

A.-From the statement of Dr. Thornton, Mr. Haggin's agent. One mistake occurred. After Dr. Thornton gave me his statement, he told me some little time after of some fencing that was not included. In the hurry to get the assessment roll ready, I neglected to include this fencing, which, of course, was my fault. That is the only injustice that occurred.

Q.-Did you assess the lands and real estate of James B. Haggin at its full cash value?

A.- I took statement of Dr. Thornton in regard to improvements, and reduced the valuation according to age.

-What do you consider to be the cash value of lands north of New River?

A.-Vary in quality. The valuation fixed by Board of Equalization was from twenty-five cents to four dollars an acre. Have no knowledge of lands in that part of county. Consider land there worth two dollars and fifty cents to three dollars an acre.

Q-What of the lands on Posey Creek?

A.-Vary. Last season worthless. Assessed lands there from one dollar and fifty cents to two dollars.

Q.-What of the lands around Delano?

A.-Worth one dollar and fifty cents to two dollars for grazing; along the road from Delano to river, first class grazing land worth two dollars and fifty cents.

Q. What is the lowest price at which any of those lands can be bought of the United States Government?

A.-I do not know. Government land is worth two dollars and fifty cents.

Q. What is the lowest price for which the Southern Pacific Railroad Company sells its lands in your county?

A--Do not know.

Q.-Is not two dollars and fifty cents an acre the lowest cash value of these lands on the plains north of New River, and around Posey Creek and Delano?

A.-Depends on the season; last year the lands were worthless. Based assessment on the condition of last year. The railroad was assessed six thousand dollars per mile, but they introduced testimony showing that they lost fifty thousand dollars per month. It is a very expensive road. They claimed that it was assessed for five times as much as it was worth. It takes three to four ten-wheelers to carry what one six-wheeler would carry on the plains. The road is now impassable. The Board of Equalization favored what is known as the people's movement.

Q.-The land is sold by the Government for cash, is it not?

A.-Most lands are preëmption claims and homesteads, and assessed as such. I put a valuation on all lands.

Q.-Can it be possible then for the cash value of these lands to be any lower?

A.-The report will show. There are four thousand acres valued at from twenty cents to fifty cents an acre. The second grade land is worth from five dollars to twenty dollars an acre; third grade from two dollars to five dollars an acre; and fourth grade from twenty-five cents to two dollars an acre. Two or three acres in certain sections are worth probably fifty dollars an acre. Total acreage of waste land in Kern County is one million fifty-one thousand four hundred and forty-six acres. The average cash value of lands is: first grade, twenty-four dollárs an acre; second grade, seven dollars an acre; third, two dollars an acre; and fourth, one dollar an acre. This is for land on the island.

Q.-What is the value of lands in township twenty-nine south, of range twenty-eight east, when under cultivation ?

A.-From thirty dollars to thirty-five dollars an acre near Bakersfield. There were small tracts assessed at fifty dollars an acre, but the general average was from twenty-five dollars to thirty dollars an

acre.

Q.-What is their value when not under cultivation, or in a state of nature?

A.--On the land near Bakersfield there is a dense growth of small timber, which costs from ten dollars to twenty dollars an acre to clear; worth from five dollars to ten dollars an acre; when cleared, worth from twenty dollars to twenty-five dollars an acre. In regard to their assessment could answer better if I had my assessment roll.

Q.-- What is the average cash value of lands in township thirty south, of range twenty-eight east, when they are under cultivation?

A. —Could not designate land according to townships without roll.
Q.--What are they assessed at per acre?
A.-Will average eight dollars an acre.

Q.-- What is the average value of lands in the following townships when the same are under cultivation:

In township twenty-nine south, range twenty-six east?
In township twenty-nine south, range twenty-seven east?
In township thirty south, range twenty-six east?
In township thirty-one south, range twenty-six east?
In township thirty south, range twenty-seven cast?
In township thirty-one south, range twenty-seven east?

A.From thirty-five dollars to twenty-five dollars an acre. Lands transferred from railroad company to Haggin were assessed on the basis of previous valuation, according to the book of the Board of Equalization. I only was allowed three deputies, but this year am allowed six. Only had six days in which to grade land, when I ought to have been allowed at least three weeks. This year will assess on a different basis. In eighteen hundred and seventy-six the report shows an acreage of one million forty-one thousand one hundred and ninety-two acres in the county; in eighteen hundred and seventy-seven, an acreage of one million three hundred and seventyone thousand nine hundred and ninety-four-a discrepancy of over three hundred thousand acres. When my attention was called to the fact, I had a man named Bottsford to go over both rolls; could not account for it any way only that it was a clerical error. The assessed acreage of lands in eighteen hundred and seventy-six was one million forty-one thousand one hundred and ninety-two acres; in eighteen hundred and seventy-seven, one million one hundred and sixty-three thousand four hundred and sixty-four-a difference of one hundred and twenty-two thousand two hundred and seventysix acres. In eighteen hundred and seventy-eight the difference was one hundred and eleven thousand five hundred and sixty, making total amount of error two hundred and thirty-three thousand eight

hundred and thirty-two acres. The estimate was made in a hurry. I had no blanks furnished me. In grading the land I would take each grade of land, separate them, and foot them all up. I did not go over the footings. It was merely a clerical error, it not having gone on assessment roll. Mr. Mills, my present deputy, is competent, and any mistakes that occur, are through a clerical error. The increase of one hundred and eleven thousand five hundred and sixty acres is principally desert land. Got the desert land entries from the Desert Land Office in Visalia, and assessed them at fifty cents an acre. There is a question of law whether desert lands are assessable or not. Our District Attorney was of the opinion that they were not subject to taxation. The Attorney-General was of the opinion that they were, and I fixed the valuation at fifty cents an acre. Haggin thought that twenty-five cents an acre, what he paid for them, was all they could be assessed at. Some lands are expensive to clear, and others are prairie lands. The difference is in the improvements, where quality is the same. Fix same valuation on improved lands as alfalfa lands; cereal and unimproved lands, I make no difference. The mountain lands are considerable alfalfa, but some inferior; one or two sections are worth twenty dollars an acre. Section six, of Haggin's land, is assessed at eleven dollars an acre; section five, at fourteen dollars; section four, at sixteen dollars; section three, at fourteen dollars. A section assessed to unknown owners at fifteen dollars an acre. Generally assessed land of unknown owners higher than those of others, as compared with other lands. Haggin's is, at section twelve, at twenty dollars an acre--another section, seven dollars; Jewett's, at seven dollars; Cross & Pitter's, at nine dollars an acre, which is sowed in alfalfa. Section fifteen is assessed at three dollars.

Q-At what rate per acre did you assess the lands of O. J. Lundy, in township thirty south, of range twenty-seven east?

A.-At seven dollars per acre.

Q.-At what rate per acre the lands of Dr. J. D. Stockton, O. P. Chubb, Isaac Ahalt, in section thirty, township thirty-one south, range twenty-seven east?

A.-At ten dollars per acre.
Q.-At what rate the lands of Mr. Stern ?
A.-I do not know.

Q.–At what rate per acre the lands of J. T. Anderson, in section thirty-four, township twenty-nine south, range twenty-seven east?

A.At six dollars per acre. Assessed lands of Haggin at four dollars per acre, and small owners at six dollars. I levied assessment on description furnished me by the deputies.

At this point Mr. Warden moved to adjourn to February twentyeighth, at nine A. M.

Carried.

Room 32, CAPITOL BUILDING,
February 28th, 1878.

} Committee met pursuant to adjournment. Present, Messrs. Sherman, Nealley, Warden, and Forsyth. The examination of R. R. Donnell was proceeded with:

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The assessment of seventy-six was in excess of the value of the land. In eighteen hundred and seventy-seven it was nearer the true valuation of the land, and in fact a liberal assessment. Fixed valuation on data furnished by Board of Equalization, but the Board reduced the assessment of railroad lands. Haggin filed a complaint, but it fell through on technicalities. Lands that my predecessors valued at eight dollars and ten dollars an acre, I assessed at thirty dollars and forty dollars, in the vicinity of Bakersfield, such as Chester's, Jewett's, Hudnot's, and portions of Livermore's; from that point, not so high. Reduced valuation of land four and five miles from there to five dollars an acre. These were alfalfa lands. Cereal lands were assessed at thirty cents an acre.

Q.--At what rate did you assess the land of F. Roper, in section two, township thirty south, range twenty-seven east?

A.-At nine dollars an acre; consider that a fair valuation.
Q.--What is the total number of acres assessed to J. B. Haggin?
A.--I do not know.
Q.--What the assessed valuation of this land?
A.--I do not know.

Q.-Is not Mr. Haggin's land on Kern Island worth more than the amount for which it is assessed ?

A.--Consider it a fair valuation, and I regulate small owners by Haggin's assessment. Thornton claimed that small owners were assessed less than Haggin. All of the trouble comes from not having proper time. The Board of Equalization fixed valuation on railroad lands at one dollar and seventy-five cents an acre, but other lands I assessed to their value. There are some valuable lands belonging to Haggin in township thirty, range twenty-seven. In section six I assessed his land at eleven dollars an acre; section adjoining fourteen dollars; section four, near town, with the land inferior to western land, I assessed at sixteen dollars an acre. Unknown owners I assessed at fifteen dollars. In section two, small owners, nine dollars. I assessed Tibbett's land in eighteen hundred and seventy-seven at thirty-five dollars per acre, for the reason that he would not come to time in handing his statement, otherwise I would have assessed him twenty dollars an acre. Thought myself justified in this action. Assessed some sections of land belonging to Haggin at twelve dollars, ten dollars, and eight dollars an acre; to small owners at eight dollars and nine dollars.

Q.--Has he not paid or offered to pay as high as one hundred dollars an acre for some of it?

A.-I do not know anything about that.
Q.-Is there any of his land assessed for more than twenty dollars?
A.-I think not; twenty dollars is the highest.

Q. Is not the most of the land in Kern Island assessed for less than three dollars an acre?

A.-No, sir. There are two sections of Haggin's lands assessed at three dollars. Dr. Stockton complained to Board of Equalization of his assessment. His land was assessed for ten dollars an acre, while his son-in-law's land was assessed at six dollars and seven dollars. The reason for that was because the Doctor's land was improved, and was superior in quality to the lands adjoining. Above these lands were some of Haggin's, which was not cleared, and assessed at six dollars an acre.

Q.—Is not a part of his land worth over fifty dollars an acre?

A.-I could not tell. Captain Nobles and Alex, small farmers, told me that superior sections were worth twenty dollars. I assessed at fifteen dollars. Board of Equalization reduced to ten dollars. Q.--How many acres of land has Mr. Haggin in alfalfa ? A.-I could not tell without reference to assessment roll.

Q.—What is alfalfa land worth an acre, with the alfalfa well started ?

A.---Varies in seasons; some more profitable than others. Alfalfa lands this year were very poor. Think it is fair to assess according to the state land is in. In assessing lands, I take surroundings into consideration. Could not value property unfavorably situated as much as those more favorably situated. There are lands in that part of the county which could be made valuable by cultivation.

Q.--How many acres of land has he under cultivation ?

A.--I could not tell without reference to assessment roll. It is a small proportion of the lands that he owns.

Q.-How many miles of fence has Mr. Haggin on his land?

A.-Could not tell without reference to roll. Made an estimate of the cost of fencing, and found that it was worth seven hundred to eight hundred dollars a mile. Assessed at seven hundred dollars a mile. Several miles of fencing were failed to be given in until afterwards, and, through neglect, they were not included.

Q.-How many miles of ditching has Mr. Haggin on his land?

A.-Could not tell. I assessed the ditches at from one-half to twothirds of their original cost, which was sworn to. The ditches enhance the value of the land.

Q.-Are not these ditches a part of the improvements on the land ?

A.-Made separate assessment of ditches. I treated them as personal property.

Q.--Have they not a cash value?
A.-They have a cash value.
Q.-Havo you included them in your valuation of improvements ?
A.-Assessed separately under a distinct head.

Q. How much land is there in what is known as the McCluny Ranch ?

A.--I cannot tell. Think a section; might be more.
Q.-What is the value of this ranch?

A.—I do not know. Do not know how many buildings are on it. In assessing the personal property I put men under oath, get original cost, and the age, and then make estimate. Have not seen the property.

Q. Is not there a barn on this ranch that has in it over one hundred thousand feet of lumber?

A.—I do not know.
Q.-How many buildings are there on the Keys Ranch ?

A.-Keys has several ranches. Could not say their value. May have seen the lands, but could not tell.

Q.-How many in the Bellevue ?

A.-Could not tell. Take their value under oath, whether I have seen them or not.

Q.-How is it that you have put the value of all these ditches, buildings, fences, etc., at only seventeen thousand dollars ?

A.-Ditches come under a separate head. Think that is an error.

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