School Bond Tax Rates by School District in Contra Costa County

To commemorate the placement of another WCCUSD bond (#6) on the November ballot by our school board, I took a look at my own property tax bill to see what I was already paying even before the extra estimated $48/$100K would get tacked on.

It seemed like a lot, but what about other districts in the county? Is $232/$100K assessed value (proposed to be bumped to $280) a lot? Here are my results for the last billing cycle displayed as a table, a Tableau-generated chart, and a crude heat map.

Unified District or Elem. District
within High School District
Tax Rate
West Contra Costa$232.20
Pittsburg$144.30
Oakley/Liberty$115.30
Brentwood/Liberty$107.40
Byron/Liberty$73.10
San Ramon$66.40
Moraga/Acalanes$64.50
Lafayette/Acalanes$61.20
Mt. Diablo$61.20
Martinez$60.80
Orinda/Acalanes$60.70
Walnut Creek/Acalanes$57.30
John Swett$41.80
Antioch$41.70
Knightsen/Liberty'$38.60
Canyon/Acalanes$33.30
AVERAGE$78.74
MEDIAN$61.20

(The heat map’s redness is proportional to the percentage of the highest tax rate.)

How I Got This

The County Auditor publishes a list of ad valorem (per assessed value) tax rates in October. I got a link to the last report from a reporter. On page 3 is a list of the bonds and their rates. I picked them out by district (either unified K-12 or elementary within a high school district) and added them up.

You can see all of this in an online spreadsheet. The second “Tax Rates” tab lists the individual bonds; the first “By Districts” tab combines the bond tax rates and charts them.

Conclusion

People in the West Contra Costa Unified School District pay an incredibly disproportionate tax rate for school bonds even before tacking on an extra 20% increase in the tax rate through this proposed new bond. Remember, WCCUSD is a declining enrollment district. The closest competitors in tax rate are districts that have had substantial growth recently. While I’m sure there are rationalizations for us having a high school bond tax rate (before the new bond is even added in), the rationalizations would have to explain not just why WCCUSD is comparable to expanding districts, but why we leap over all other school districts in the county to such an exaggeratedly high tax rate.

Published by

Charley Cowens

Local resident View all posts by Charley Cowens

6 thoughts on “School Bond Tax Rates by School District in Contra Costa County”

  1. Great work, Charley. Knew we were out of whack with the rest of everywhere, but didn’t know by how much. My 2011-12 tax bill corroborates. I will just one point (but it’s a big one):

    Those of us who purchased our homes after 2001 are bearing a disproportionate share of even this incredibly high rate because our original purchase prices were so much higher than those who bought earlier. (Prop 13) So, for instance, for a 1410 sq ft house, we paid $1435 last year. That means that going forward 25 years from 2011-12, our household will pay $50,205 for the bonds that are already approved. (The total assumes 2% max added valuation per year, even though this year we were re-adjusted for +10.5% 2010-11 value. Presumably the recovery? Is that even legal? Prop 13 for everyone else, I guess. But I digress….)

  2. Good point, Bobbie, about the Prop. 13 impact. I was shocked to find out that the assessed value of a “typical” house in WCCUSD was a bit over $200K. There are both poor and affluent areas here, but this is still the Bay Area. Then, I remembered Prop. 13.

    Maybe the +10.5% bump was for something you did to improve your house?

  3. Very interesting data. I’m curious how this compares to Alameda county, particularly those communities with aging schools sitting atop the Hayward fault. Our school (in El Cerrito) was built in the 1950s and is a few hundred yards from the fault. We are, understandably, eager to see it replaced.

    1. I started to go through nearby Alameda County and then got sidetracked. I’ll return to it and make a separate post soon.

  4. It should be noted that the board members who are the greatest advocates of the bond measures often receive large amounts of money from developers in campaign contributions. This means that while you and I pay for this tax, these board members are getting paid for this tax. They are not sharing the pain, but instead, are profiting from it.

Comments are closed.