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Final Lessons from the Battle with the Tax Assessor That Never Happened

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series "Kramer vs. Kramer" to "Kramer vs. Ramsey"

Before leaving the issue of the dust-up over assessments discussed in Yet Another WCCUSD WTF (What the Funicular) Moment and Belated Follow-​up on the WCCUSD Campaign to Pressure the County Assessor, I’d like to point out three things that stand out from this episode.

First, where did Whitehurst/​Mosher come from? Searching the District website, they only turn up back in January (18th), 2013 as community outreach consultants for a parcel tax. I can’t find anything since then. Where’s the authorization to hire them?

Additionally, this whole ridiculous episode is a reminder of how, under Charles Ramsey’s hegemony over the District, the Board meetings are just a theater for Charles to stage whatever bizarre play he wants. The long sessions for the Ivy League Connection were just the beginning.

Finally, this establishes a bad precedent for politicizing the property assessment process. This isn’t as important in times when Prop. 13-limited assessments are behind market rates, but, if there’s another downturn, it could be important.

Belated Follow-up on the WCCUSD Campaign to Pressure the County Assessor

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series "Kramer vs. Kramer" to "Kramer vs. Ramsey"

The Yet Another WCCUSD WTF (What the Funicular) Moment post was put up before board meeting. The board did actually receive a report and discuss (actually mostly just Ramsey and some Kronenberg) how to strong-arm the County Assessor into being less inclined to maintain lower assessments. Now I have the clip so you can listen and be awed. Here is the clip on local TV where the County Assessor, Gus Kramer, expresses his side.

What is this all about? The best explanation can be found in a recent SF Chronicle piece on the latest assessments. Basically, if the market value of your house is less than the Prop. 13-set assessment (based on the sale price), you can have the assessed value of your house set to the market value on a year-by-year basis until it catches up with what the regular Prop. 13-set assessment would be. The system is set up to protect the taxpayer, not the government. (The Board agenda did a very bad job of framing the issue.)

What Mr. Ramsey seemed to be demanding was that Mr. Kramer increase the market valuations for such homes across the board to be more “realistic,” so they would be higher. It was never stated how much he thought this would raise in additional taxes.

Mr. Kramer begged off appearing before Mr. Ramsey on Mr. Ramsey’s chosen ground, a School Board meeting, saying everyone should wait till the latest assessments were released to discuss things. These have been released. Primarily because of the Chevron fire and the decline in its assessment, the WCCUSD assessment will decline 5.9%.

So, what was the point of this? It seems odd that Ramsey would be focusing on squeezing small homeowners with no clear target for increased collection. It’s not odd if you just look at this as a mere gesture. The tax rates were going to go up anyway, because a completely new bond authorization was passed in 2012. The whole saga of the drop in assessed valuation leading to higher taxes was just a different story line to distract attention from the fact that a whole new bond authorization was coming to roost.

Yet Another WCCUSD WTF (What the Funicular) Moment

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series "Kramer vs. Kramer" to "Kramer vs. Ramsey"

Here’s a great a tidbit from tonight’s school board meeting agenda:

D.3 Communication Strategy for Fair Assessed Valuation

Comment: Over a two-year period, the assessed valuation for property in the West Contra Costa Unified School District declined by 19% resulting in substantial hikes in property taxes for property owners in making payments on the district’s bond measures. During the last year property values have increased substantially while re-assessments of properties have not kept pace as required under a key modification to Proposition 13 (1978). The communication consulting firm, Whitehurst/Mosher has been retained to support the district’s effort to have assessed values comply with the Prop 13 requirements.

John Whitehurst and Jill Nelson-Golub from Whitehurst/Mosher will provide a report to the Board on how the district engage local officials and communities to ensure that the 2014 assessments are aligned with Prop 13 values.

So, basically, the West Contra Costa school district wants to use money that could be used for instruction to hire consultants to pressure local government officials to raise the assessments on people’s properties, so taxpayers pay more in taxes overall, but the percentage rate on school bonds is lower than it would be otherwise, so the school district can say they’ve held down the individual rates, so the electorate (presumably at the next Presidential election) must approve yet another (7th) bond measure that raises taxes more… With the passage of the Local Control Funding Formula, our district will even be able to hire an extra team of consultants for this.

I am totally verklemt. I love this school district! Where else can I see such a unique political science experiment in progress. Well, there is a price for admission for some of us. What can Charles Ramsey not get away with?

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