As multiple districts across California voted for bonds, parcel taxes, and fees, something happened in Contra Costa County in 2014.
Since 1937, the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association has been an active countywide organization that holds local cities, districts, and the county accountable and transparent while opposing unneceassary taxes. Contra Costa County is one of seven counties that compose the Bay Area. San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano, and Marin counties create the San Francisco Bay Area counties. Contra Costa County has almost 1.06 million residents located in the cities of Oakley, Brentwood, Antioch, Pittsburg, Martinez, Concord, Walnut Creek, San Ramon, Danville, Lafayette, Orinda, Moraga, Hercules, Pinole, San Pablo, El Cerrito, and Richmond.
According to the California Taxpayers Association, the Bay Area has the highest parcel taxes in California. Los Angeles County has the second highest in parcel taxes on property.
In the western portion of Contra Costa County within the cities of Richmond, San Pablo, Pinole, El Cerrito, and Hercules, two school bonds, one general bond defeated, and a parcel tax were defeated. Yet $450 million countywide community college bond narrowly passed with 57% on June 3rd.
Three sales tax increases were passed in Richmond (Measure U), Pinole (Measure S), and El Cerrito (Measure T) on November 4th. However, the sales tax increase narrowly passed in Richmond and Pinole with no paid opposition campaign. The Contra Costa Times named the western portion of Contra Costa County as having the third highest property taxes in the state of California. According to Contra Costa Times, West Contra Costa County has some of the poorest neighborhoods in the Bay Area with thehighest property taxes.
On May 6, 2014, voters shot down Measure C, a parcel tax for the West Contra Costa Healthcare District which is Doctor’s Medical Hospital. With no revenues, the hospital is facing closure over long term debt and taxpayer fatigue to increase their own property tax bill.
Latinos and other minorities voted down these two tax measures in West County. For years, West Contra Costa Unified School District voters passed $1.6 billion dollars of school bonds. The district faced its fate as Measure H, a $270 million bond, went into flaming defeat on June 3, 2014. Soon after, the West Contra Costa Unified School District faced investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission into its $1.6 billion bond and school construction program. At the same time the Kensington Police Protection and Community Service District residents voted against a $2 million bond on June 3rd.
Who were these voters who voted against tax increases in an area known as safe for tax increases? They were blue collar workers, African Americans, Latinos, middle class, and others fed up with paying the fourth highest property taxes in the state of California.
On November 4th, Measure M, the $52 million school bond, was defeated in West Contra Costa’s small John Swett Unified School District. John Swett Unified is located next to West Contra Costa Unified School District.
Is it possible to defeat school bonds and parcel taxes? Yes, it is possible but it requires an active countywide taxpayer association dedicated to promoting full accountability and transparency of local cities, school districts, special districts, and the local county government. Are people getting fed up with tax increases as their incomes become stagnant?
California residents need to support their local countywide taxpayer association as an active member or donate money to the cause. If you don’t have a countywide taxpayer’s association then create one!
Alex Aliferis is the Executive Director for the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association (www.cocotax.org). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.