Mystery Education Theater 3000

Tag: parcel tax

What’s on Your Property Tax Bill?

Another “Ramsey Tax” (WCCUSD bond #6) has now been approved for the ballot by our school board. What better time than now to check out what we’re paying extra to live in the West Contra Costa Unified School District.

Keep in mind all property tax bills are public info and web-accessible (in California). I looked up mine from the Contra Costa County Tax Collector’s site.

The bill itself is an intimidating jumble. On the left-hand side are parcel taxes (not directly based on the assessed value of the parcel), and on the right-hand side areĀ ad valorem taxes (based on the assessed value of the parcel). School bonds are ad valorem taxes.

I pulled out the school taxes and put them in an online spreadsheet. I also added additional contextual info and used “typical” parcel values from a Contra Costa Times editorial.

The Bonds

What’s truly astonishing is just how huge the bill is now for 5 bonds, especially compared to everything else on the extra ad valorem side. For BART, the water district, the parks district, and community college, the combined rate is $32.30/$100K; for WCCUSD, the rate is $232.20/$100K. That’s a more than 7:1 ratio.


Another interesting aspect of the tax bill is the MRAD (Maintenance and Recreation Assessment District) assessment. This deserves its own article, but here’s the short story. It’s a $72/parcel tax. It is mostly used to pay for “Maintenance and Operations” (80%). This is probably all salaries that would have to be funded by general operating funds otherwise, so it’s a lot like the other parcel tax. A small part of the expenditures is used for funding small construction-related projects at schools, so it’s also used a little like bond funds.

What Next?

My next step is to poke around tax bills for other school districts to see how much other school districts charge on the bills and check the proportion of taxes for constuction vs. operations.

View the online spreadsheet.

What a Difference a Month Makes

On July 2d, the WCCUSD School Board met in a special meeting. People told them loud and clear “Enhanced parcel tax, no bond.” The Board authorized a parcel-tax-only survey unanimously. Charles Ramsey said such a (no-bond) campaign would have to be conducted without him. For a week or so, it was West Contra Costa Spring as people quickly started organizing a grassroots campaign under the name Support West County Students, without Charles and his (friends’) money, to support a parcel tax increase campaign.

Now, it’s August 1st and the same board is ready to place another $300M+ bond (#6) on the Nov. ballot, only two years after passing the previous $300M+ bond (#5), and to place an extension only for the current parcel tax that doesn’t actually expire till 2014. Expect another heavily funded astroturf campaign.

Anyway, to relive those halcyon days of early July, I’ve uploaded sound files from the July 2d meeting. I digitized the parts of the audio cassettes for the “Funding” item in the meeting. They can be played or downloaded from: (beginning from the 1st tape) (ending from the 2d tape)

WCCUSD 6-13-2012 School Board Meeting

It looks like I’m going to miss today’s school board meeting. Here’s the agenda. And here’re some of the items of interest from the agenda:

*CI C.6 Approval of Agreement with United Teachers of Richmond (UTR)/ AB1200 Public
Disclosure of Collective Bargaining Agreement with UTR

As a consent item, there will probably be no discussion. It’s the ratification of a temporary 1-year agreement with the UTR. Even though this was the year for the multi-year contract to come up for ratification leading to potential strife, both sides decided to kick the can down the road for another year. Of the five furlough days in the current contract, two sunset automatically at the end of June. This agreement temporarily takes two more furlough days off, so teachers have just one furlough day.

*CI C.13 Collins Elementary School New Fire Alarm Project Award of Contract
*CI C.14 Ellerhorst Elementary School, Harding Elementary School, Lincoln Elementary School,
and Tara Hills Elementary School Restroom Renovation Project Award of Contract
*CI C.15 Mira Vista Elementary School Concrete Stoops Project Award of Contract
*CI C.16 Sheldon Elementary School, Murphy Elementary School, and Mira Vista Elementary
School Restroom Renovation Project Award of Contract

The cost for all of these consent items is literally “Funded from the Measure X Bond”. That’s so informative. Is it that hard to list the cost of the project?

* D.5 Preliminary Budget for 2012-2013

This is the point where board and public comment will probably go over the parcel tax defeat. If I were there I would ask about whether the City of Richmond is going to pay its “WCCUSDgeld” of $1.5M for this coming year to keep the three schools on the closure list from being closed. Or is everyone going to just pretend the board resolution mandating this arrangement can just be winky-winked away without any formal action. Then, where’s the $1.5M going to come from in the budget?

* E.3 WCCUSD Public Comment

My favorite time. That’s why I archive the video clips of these segments.

It will be interesting to see how many people show up who were riled up by Charles Ramsey’s remarks about breaking up the district because the parcel tax didn’t pass and the support for it varied by community. Just check any of the “Patches” (El Cerritto, Hercules, Pinole) to see some of the uproar.

* F.1 West County Community High School Charter Renewal Petition Staff Findings and
Resolution No. 120-1112

This is interesting in three ways:

  1. The intersection of the district’s brass knuckles approach to most charters with the attempt of an elitist charter school association to liquidate a community-based charter. The idea of the California Charter Schools Association is to throw a few charter schools they don’t like under the bus to advance the interests of the more ed-reformy charters they do like.
  2. The utter vulnerability of the community-based charters, the ones I sympathize with, versus the chain and big-money charters when school boards take the kind of belligerent approach they are encouraged to.
  3. The bad timing of these decisions: this is a decision to shut a school down in a few weeks. This kind of decision should happen not later than February. If it’s a problem with State laws, they should be changed.

If the board approves, we’ll see whether this is taken up to the County level on appeal.


The Elections Calendar Page

One of the static pages I’ve added to the blog is an elections calendar for standard election dates in California. As a spreadsheet it can dynamically update itself to show how many days to a deadline.

Here’s a concrete use for it. I know my school district (West Contra Costa USD) is thinking of putting a parcel tax on the ballot for June. By looking at the cut-off date and comparing it with the calendar for the district board meetings (in this case here), I can see that the school board has these regular meetings in which to vote for putting a parcel tax on the ballot for June 5:

February 15
March 7

March 7 is very close to the March 9 deadline, so a decision would likely occur on Feb. 15 or a special meeting.

A Yes Vote I’m Not Happy About

Yes, I guess I’ll vote for Measure D in WCCUSD (West Contra Costa Unified School District) to raise property taxes by about $48/$10K of assessed valuation in order to pay for a 5th round of construction bonds (the other four are still being paid off through property taxes) for everything and nothing connected with buildings in WCCUSD. You can see the measure and arguments here on the Smart Voter site, including a project list that reads like a surreal novel: Continue reading

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