Daniel Borenstein: West Contra Costa already tops county property tax rates

Originally Published: Contra Costa Times

By Daniel Borenstein, staff columnist © 2014 Bay Area News Group

As West Contra Costa voters prepare to cast ballots on two property tax increases, they might consider that they already pay the highest rates in the county, and nearly the top in the entire East Bay.

This coming week, voters should mail in ballots that must be received no later than May 6 for a special West Contra Costa Healthcare District election. At issue is a measure that would more than triple an assessment for a typical home to about $309 a year.

It’s a desperate attempt to keep Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo open. If Measure C passes, it still wouldn’t provide enough funds to sustain the facility. It would be a permanent tax that would remain in effect even if the facility is acquired by another health care system, and would end only if the hospital and emergency room close.

Then, in the June 3 election, West Contra Costa voters will be asked to approve the seventh school construction bond measure in 17 years. In the prior six, voters authorized borrowing more than $1.6 billion. Measure H would bring the total to $1.9 billion.

Of that, the district has already borrowed more than $1 billion. No other K-12 district in the state, except the much-larger Los Angeles and San Diego districts, has borrowed more since 1999.

Repaying those bonds has proved very costly. Property owners paid $282 this year for every $100,000 of assessed valuation. That rate would increase to $341 next year if Measure H passes.

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