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.

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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.…)

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