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
San Ramon$66.40
Mt. Diablo$61.20
Walnut Creek/​Acalanes$57.30
John Swett$41.80

(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.


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.

About Charley Cowens

Local resident
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6 Responses to School Bond Tax Rates by School District in Contra Costa County

  1. Bobbie Ohs Dowling says:

    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. ccowens says:

    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. Tim Warner says:

    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.

  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.