Mystery Education Theater 3000

Tag: property taxes

WCCUSD School Bond Tax Rates Compared to Local School Districts (2014 Edition)

taxRateBars

WCCUSD does excel at one thing!

Two years ago, before the passage of the measure E (2012) bond, I posted twice comparing the school bond property tax rate in the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) to other districts in Contra Costa County and then to districts in northern Alameda County. Measure E (2012) passed.

Now, it’s two years later, and I get to show again how far out of wack we are as a district even before the new proposed measure H (2014) bond would pass. I’ll update things to be nicer, but, in the meantime, here’s a link to the Google spreadsheet with the rates:

Finding the Numbers

This time it was easier for me to find the tax rates. For Contra Costa County:

  1. Point your browser to the county document center: http://www.co.contra-costa.ca.us/documentcenterii.asp.
  2. Open the folder for “Auditor-Controller”.
  3. Click on “Property Tax Publications”.
  4. Open the PDF file, “Detail of Tax Rates 2013-14”.
  5. Turn to page 3.

For Alameda County:

  1. Point your browser to the “Debt Service Tax Rates by District Type” page: https://www.acgov.org/auditor/tax/debtservicesearch.htm
  2. Choose “K-12 School Districts”, make sure “2013-2014” is one of the compare years, and click the Search button.

What Can You Do?

One thing you can do is e-mail the school board and ask them if they are even aware of just how much WCCUSD pays for school bonds as taxes compared to other school districts–before this new one. This is a “mailto:” link for all of them.

 

School Bond Tax Rates Compared to Northern Alameda County School Districts

I recently posted School Bond Tax Rates by School District in Contra Costa County to show just how ridiculously out of line our West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) school bond tax rate at $232/$100K assessed value is, even before adding on the proposed new Measure E (Nov. 2012) bond to jack the rate up to $280/$100K. A commenter suggested looking at districts with more seismic issues, so I collected information on northern Alameda County school districts like Berkeley.

Here are my results for the last billing cycle displayed as a table and a Tableau-generated chart. We are still way out of line before Measure E passes.

School DistrictTax Rate
West Contra Costa$232.20
Albany$164.50
Piedmont$153.40
Berkeley$147.80
Oakland$130.50
Emeryville$66.60
AVERAGE$132.56
MEDIAN$147.80

How I Got This

I didn’t have access to a County Auditor list of ad valorem (per assessed value) tax rates like I did for Contra Costa. Luckily, all of these school districts are unified and have the same boundaries as their cities, so I just used Google Maps to zoom in and find homes in the different cities. I then got an address and looked up the last property tax bill using the search page. Tedious, but it works.

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.

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 are 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.

MRAD

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.

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