Archive for the ‘Taxes’ Category

Contra Costa Community College District bond sale, refinance saves property tax payers $1.7 million

Thursday, March 4th, 2021

By Timothy Leong, Public Information Officer, 4CD

On November 10, 2020, the Contra Costa Community College District (District) sold $110 million of new Measure E bonds and refinanced $35 million of previously sold general obligation bonds originally issued in 2014 following voter approval of 57.58%.  Due in part to favorable Moody’s and S&P ratings, the refinancing collectively saves Contra Costa County property owners over $1.7 million through 2040, and savings will be passed on in the form of lower property taxes. Voters will see this change reflected in their 2020-21 property tax bills, with annual total savings for our taxpayers of over $150,000.

The new Brentwood Center and new Kinesiology and Student Union Complex at the LMC-Pittsburg campus were the first major District projects completed using Measure E funds. The $110 million sale of new Measure E bonds will help continue the transformation of additional facilities at District sites. These projects include the new Science Center and renovation of the PE/Kinesiology Complex at Contra Costa College, the Arts Complex and PE/Kinesiology Complex at Diablo Valley College (DVC)-Pleasant Hill Campus, and the new Library and Learning Center at the DVC-San Ramon Campus.

“This is the fourth time the District has refinanced previously sold bonds to reduce debt service for our taxpayers,” said Chancellor Bryan Reece. “We will continue to focus on our fiduciary responsibility of managing public funds and want to thank Contra Costa County voters for allowing us to make these critical investments in the community.”

The sales and refinancing transactions were handled by Morgan Stanley.  KNN Public Finance was the District’s financial advisor, and Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe performed as bond counsel.

The Contra Costa Community College District (District) is one of the largest multi-college community college districts in California. The District serves a population of 1,019,640 people, and its boundaries encompass all but 48 of the 734-square-mile land area of Contra Costa County. The District is home to Contra Costa College in San Pablo, Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Los Medanos College in Pittsburg, as well as educational centers in Brentwood and San Ramon.  The District headquarters is located in downtown Martinez.

 

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Supervisors query Contra Costa health officials queried on low vaccine locations in West County

Thursday, January 21st, 2021

Members of the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors and new County Administrator Monica Nino (top center) during their meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. Video screenshot.

Celebrate MLK day, honor Humanitarians of the Year, appoint 11 to Racial Justice Oversight Body including Antioch Council Member Torres-Walker, increase vehicle license fees

By Daniel Borsuk

During the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, under the questioning of District 1 Supervisor John Gioia, Contra Costa County Public Health Director Anna Roth was asked why West County has the fewest vaccine locations, five, while other districts in the county have more sites where citizens can get vaccinated.

Gioia brought up the issue on why there are far fewer vaccination sites in the Richmond and El Cerrito area that has the highest COVID-19 incidence rates in the county because of its high percentage of Black and Latino residents. He noted that there were 10 vaccination sites in East County, 10 sites in the South County (San Ramon Valley) and seven locations in Central County.

Roth said she would report back to the Board on why West County had fewest vaccination sites, but District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville said many of the vaccination locations in her district are drug stores or grocery stores.

Gioia brought up the disparity of vaccination locations in West County after Roth had reported that the County had given about 52,000 vaccine shots since Dec. 15.  She noted persons over 65 are now eligible to receive the vaccine and the vaccine is being distributed through Kaiser, Sutter and at Safeway stories.  The vaccine is being distributed at 960 doses a day.

“The vaccine is giving us hope” said Contra Costa Public Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano.  “Almost one third of the deaths in Contra Costa County were COVID-19 related.”

Velma Wilson, Kimyatta Newby Honored at MLK Ceremony

During the county’s 43rd Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration, the Board Chair Diane Burgis presented a spectacularly produced video (see 2:34:00 mark) featuring Antioch activist Velma Wilson as the Humanitarian of the Year and Howard University student Kimyatta Newby as Student Humanitarian of the Year. (See related article)

Appoint 11 to Racial Justice Oversight Body

Supervisors approved, without discussion, the appointments of 11 residents to the Racial Justice Oversight Body, a multi-agency advisory body established by the Board of Supervisors in 2018 to oversee the implementation of the recommendations made by the Racial Justice Task Force to reduce disparities in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.  The 11 new members will serve their appointment throuogh December   31, 2023.

Richmond Police Chief Bisa French will serve as the Local Law Enforcement representative.  LaShanta Smith of the West Contra Costa Unified School District will serve as the school district representative.  Also appointed are Tamisha Torres-Walker, an Antioch Council Member; Jeff Landau, a County public defender; Michael Pierson, an Antioch lawyer; Chala Bonner, a political education organizer; Stephanie Medley, an attorney; Ronell Ellis, an entertainment company owner; Cheryl Sudduth, a Goodwill Industries director; Apollo Sulse, a pastor of The Bay Church; and Noe Gudino, a coordinator at Ryse Youth Center.

Vehicle License Fee Hike OK’d

Without hearing any citizen objection, supervisors unanimously approved increasing an annual vehicle license fee of $1.00 for all motor vehicles registered in Contra Costa County and an additional $2.00 for commercial vehicles to provide additional funding for the county’s CAL-ID program.  Used by the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies in the county, the CAL-ID system provides funding for the Automated Fingerprint Identification System for persons who may be involved in driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, vehicular manslaughter, or any combination of those and other vehicle-related crimes.

The fee increase will help cover a projected deficit of $1.1 million starting August 1, 2021.

Bay Point Fire Station Construction Contract Approved

Serving as the Contra Costa Fire Protection District Board of Directors, supervisors unanimously approved a $9,579,000 contract with C. Overaa & Co. to construct a new Fire Station 86 in Bay Point at 10 Goble Dr. even though the second lowest bidder for the project, D.L. Falk Construction Inc., with a bid of $9,714,000 had submitted an objection that was rejected by county officials.

No public objections were lodged about the contract during the Board of Directors meeting on Tuesday.

“Overaa’s bid is responsive and that County Public Works Department staff has thoroughly reviewed the bid and determined that Overaa has documented an adequate good faith effort to comply with the requirements of the County’s Outreach Program, as provided in the Project specifications.  Staff recommends that the construction contract for the Project be awarded to Overaa Construction Inc., the lowest, responsible bidder, in the nearly $9,579,000, as listed in Overaa’s bid,” said the Public Works Department statement.

A third bid of $10,088,000 had been submitted by Alten Construction, Inc. of Richmond.

The new Fire Station 86 will replace the asbestos-plagued, 60-year-old fire station that is so outdated and “is too small to accommodate the needs of the modern fire service,” Contra Costa Fire Protection District Chief Lewis Broschard III wrote in a recommendation to the supervisors. “The layout consists of unconnected buildings used for various purposes. This station itself is believed to contain asbestos …This project has had several starts and stops over the decades.  This fire station will serve Bay Point and the adjacent City of Pittsburg.  The Pittsburg area south of Highway 4 has seen significant growth in recent years.  This growth is anticipated to continue.”

Retiring EBRPD Director Doyle Recognized

Supervisors also recognized Robert Doyle for his 25 years of service at the East Bay Regional Park District, the past 10 years where he served as General Manager of the park district.  Among his numerous achievements at EBRPD, Doyle was instrumental in managing the parks during the current COVID-19 crisis in which park use increased dramatically.

 

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Contra Costa Tax Collector’s online system crashes, payments due Thursday must be mailed or dropped off by tomorrow

Wednesday, December 9th, 2020

By Anthony Dorado

The Contra Costa County Treasurer-Tax Collector’s online payment system crashed on Wednesday, December 9 just a day before the first installment deadline for property tax bills tomorrow. A Tax Collector’s office staff member said that they had experienced an influx of payments that overloaded and subsequently crashed the system.

Many residents utilize the online system as a cheaper, more efficient way to pay their taxes and with the current COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. Due to the nature of the system, most users wait until just days before the deadline to submit those taxes and are now seemingly at risk for penalty. No announcement was issued on the matter regarding the crash nor what was being done about it.

However, the staff member said they were doing everything in their power to fix the system and that it should be back up and running soon. While they understand and empathize with those inconvenienced, Tax Collector’s office is asking that people be patient and flexible.

Anyone who has not yet filed their first installment taxes can do so by mailing them by tomorrow, Thursday, Dec. 10. Those who mail their taxes by or before the deadline will have their taxes received and filed promptly according with their postage date. As long as the filing is postmarked by Dec. 10, there will be no penalties.

Taxes, paid by check, only must be mailed to Contra Costa Tax Collector P.O. Box 631, Martinez, CA 94553 or they can be dropped off in the box at the Main Street door of the county Finance Building at 625 Court Street, Suite 100 in Martinez.

 

 

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Vote “No” on the Measure X “county services” sales tax increase

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020

by Sue Pricco and Michael Arata

Measure X, a 20-year, half-percent Contra Costa County sales tax increase, is on the November 3rd ballot. The “current pandemic” is among rationales advanced by the measure’s supporters.

In reality, however, Measure X got its start in May, 2019 – long before COVID-19 was even on the horizon – when five representatives of county employee organizations demanded that county supervisors drop a plan for a new transportation tax and sponsor a new “county services” tax instead.
The transportation-tax measure went ahead anyway, eventually as Measure J on March 3rd’s Primary ballot.  Itself pushing a half-percent sales-tax increase, Measure J failed.  Measure X deserves the same fate now.

For starters, Measure X is regressive, disproportionately affecting those least able to afford increased costs, particularly during a time of pandemic-driven financial hardship.  Thousands of small businesses have closed.  Millions of Californians are unemployed.   Those still working often see smaller paychecks.

Meanwhile, all must still pay (now or on a deferred basis) federal and state income taxes, payroll taxes, property taxes, auto-registration taxes, gasoline taxes, phone taxes, etc. ad nauseam.  With whatever money remains, individuals and families must still provide for necessities.

Except for food purchases, essential product needs — from paper towels to kids’ shoes, sometimes to replacement automobiles — have sales taxes added.

Oh, wait on the food exception.  If resources permit a sit-down restaurant dinner or a hot takeout meal, those foods ARE taxed.

Contra Costa sales-tax rates already range from 8.25% to 9.75%, tied for 7th highest among California’s 58 counties.  And another round of sales-tax leapfrog is not a game which County residents likely hope to “win.

The Measure X ballot question (the summary voters see on ballots) advertises various specific purposes, implying falsely that some are new obligations.

But hiding in the underlying County ordinance’s fine print is the fact that Measure X is actually a general tax, “solely for general governmental purposes and not for specific purposes.

In economic terms, Measure X dollars are fungible; they can be moved around.  So, for example, Measure X’s new millions could fund County-employee salary, current benefit, and large pension payments directly.

But behind a covering smokescreen of seeming legitimacy, the measure could alternatively finesse compensation boosts indirectly, by “freeing up” money budgeted for other purposes and then backfilling those budget categories with an injection of Measure X revenues.

It would not be the first time that a local government agency deployed such a maneuver.
As is, County employees have enjoyed a 20% salary/benefit increase over just the last three years, and a $166,673 average now in annual per-employee compensation cost — while many who’d pay the new sales tax would count themselves fortunate just to return to their own compensation levels of three years ago

What about the Measure X proponent claim of spending “oversight”?  An original ballot-question version characterized the measure as “requiring fiscal accountability.”  But a Superior Court judge removed that phrase after finding that the County’s related ordinance omitted it.  “Fiscal accountability” was apparently just an afterthought.

Finally, Measure X passage would leave at least seven Contra Costa city and town jurisdictions above the statutory 2% cap on local sales taxes.  So an underhanded legislative scheme was deployed.  State Senate Bill 1349, passed and signed at the last minute, allows the County’s sales-tax cap to increase from 2% effectively to at least 3.5% (or possibly 4%), in addition to the State’s 7.25% rate.

And this change, asserts the bill itself in Orwellian doublespeak, “does not constitute a change in, but is declaratory of, existing law.

Measure X deserves your determined “NO” vote.  For more information, visit CoCoTax.org and NOonX.info.
Sue Pricco is president of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association.  Michael Arata is a co-founder of the Alliance of Contra Costa Taxpayers 

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Glazer’s bill allowing Contra Costa half-cent sales tax increase signed by governor

Friday, October 2nd, 2020

Votes for Measure X will now count; sales taxes in the county could go to 10.75%, highest in California; Glazer’s second tax increase measure on November ballot

State Senator Steve Glazer. From his campaign Facebook page.

By Allen Payton

On the last day possible, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a variety of bills on Thursday, including SB1349 by State Senator Steve Glazer, allowing a countywide half-cent sales tax increase which is designated Measure X on the November ballot in Contra Costa. The votes on that measure will now count. Had the governor vetoed the bill the votes would not have counted. He also had the option of not signing it by the Sept. 30th deadline and the bill would have become law.

The ballot language for Measure X reads as follows: “To keep Contra Costa’s regional hospital open and staffed; fund community health centers; provide timely fire and emergency response; support crucial safety-net services; invest in early childhood services; protect vulnerable populations; and for other essential county services, shall the Contra Costa County measure levying a ½ cent sales tax, exempting food sales, providing an estimated $81,000,000 annually for 20 years that the State cannot take, with funds benefitting County residents, be adopted?”

Glazer introduced the bill in the State Senate on February 21, 2020 focusing on “State responsibility area fire prevention fees”. He changed it to, “Transactions and use taxes: County of Contra Costa” on April 8, 2020 after the March Primary election was decided and the countywide additional half-cent sales tax increase for transportation failed.

It took some maneuvering in the State Senate Governance & Finance Committee to get the bill to the floor for a full vote. The bill first failed on a 3-2-2 vote on May 21. A motion to reconsider the bill then passed 7-0 on May 28 and a final committee vote was held on June 3 with just enough to pass by a vote of 4-2-1. It then passed the full Senate on June 11 by a vote of 27-11-2 with both Glazer and State Senator Nancy Skinner, who represents all of West County, voting in favor.

In the Assembly, Member Tim Grayson carried the bill which passed 48-23-8, with the other three Assemblymembers representing Contra Costa County, Jim Frazier, Rebecca Bauer-Kahan and Buffy Wicks not voting.

The Contra Costa County Public Managers Association was coordinating the effort to get the bill passed and the City Managers were the ones who endorsed it, not the various city councils.

The state has a sales tax rate of 7.25%, decreased from 7.5% on January 1, 2017, and state law prevented counties from charging more than 9.25% prior to the bill becoming law. That includes the half-cent sales tax for BART and the additional half-cent sales tax for transportation through the Contra Costa Transportation Authority. That leaves 1% remaining by which the county can increase its sales tax.

The Board of Supervisors considered a sales tax increase that would have only applied to unincorporated areas outside the 19 city limits. But that was quietly set aside.

According to the Senate Governance & Finance Committee Bill Analysis the earlier version of the bill that passed the Senate the first time, would have allowed a possible increase in the countywide sales tax rate to 11.75% in cities that already have a 1% sales tax such as in Antioch, and as high as 12.25% in El Cerrito which has a 1.5% city sales tax. However, the governor’s office said that went too far and the final bill was scaled back.

California’s sales tax rate is high compared to other states, especially when incorporating locally imposed district taxes. Tax experts argue that sales and use taxes are regressive, meaning that the tax incidence falls more on low-income individuals than high-income individuals because those of lesser means generally spend a greater percentage of their income on taxable sales, instead of intangible products or services which are not taxed.

By removing the current Contra Costa Transportation Authority and BART taxes as counting against the cap, in the final version of SB 1349, which passed the Senate the second time and signed by Newsom, allows an additional 1% of room for the county and each of its 19 cities to impose another district of up to 1% in sales tax. If voters approve the 1/2% allowed under Measure X, when it states that existing taxes do not count against the cap, the combined rate would increase to 8.75% countywide, plus any current city rates. The bill also grants Contra Costa County an additional authorization for another 1/2% sales tax increase, such as for the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, thereby boosting the maximum countywide rate to 9.25%, plus any current city rates.

That could result in a rate as high as 10.75% in the City of El Cerrito, where an additional 1.5% rate currently applies, and a 10.25% rate in the City of Antioch where they have a current 1% sales tax.

Glazer had the support of his bill from the California Labor Federation, California Professional Firefighters, California Teamsters Public Affairs Council, Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, Contra Costa Transportation Authority, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21, Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 29, and SEIU California.

Those opposed to SB1349 were the Alliance of Contra Costa Taxpayers, California Taxpayers Association, Contra Costa County Taxpayers Association, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund.

In spite of campaigning as a fiscal conservative, touting a hold the line approach to new taxes, this is Glazer’s second measure on the November ballot that will increase taxes if passed. The other is statewide Prop. 19, which will increase taxes on inherited homes or commercial property. According to Ballotpedia, “The ballot measure would eliminate the parent-to-child and grandparent-to-grandchild exemption in cases where the child or grandchild does not use the inherited property as their principal residence, such as using a property a rental house or a second home. When the inherited property is used as the recipient’s principal residence but has a market value above $1 million, an upward adjustment in assessed value would occur. The ballot measure would also apply these rules to certain farms. Beginning on February 16, 2023, the taxable value of an inherited principal residential property would be adjusted each year at a rate equal to the change in the California House Price Index.”

Following is the Legislative Counsel’s Digest and text of Glazer’s bill:

Senate Bill No. 1349

CHAPTER 369

An act to amend Section 29140 of the Public Utilities Code, and to amend Section 7291 of the Revenue and Taxation Code, relating to taxation.

[ Approved by Governor  September 30, 2020. Filed with Secretary of State  September 30, 2020. ]

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

SB 1349, Glazer. Transactions and use taxes: County of Contra Costa.

Existing law authorizes various specified cities and counties, subject to certain limitations and approval requirements, to levy a transactions and use tax for general or specific purposes, in accordance with the procedures and requirements set forth in the Transactions and Use Tax Law. A provision of the Transactions and Use Tax Law prohibits the combined rate of all taxes that may be imposed in accordance with that law in a county from exceeding 2%.

Existing law authorizes the Contra Costa Transportation Authority to impose a transactions and use tax for the support of countywide transportation programs at a rate of no more than 0.5% that, in combination with other transactions and use taxes, exceeds the above-described combined rate limit of 2%, if certain requirements are met, including a requirement that the ordinance proposing the transactions and use tax be submitted to, and approved by, the voters. Existing law repeals this authorization on December 31, 2020, if an ordinance proposing a transactions and use tax has not been approved by that date.

Existing law, the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District Act, creates the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District, which comprises a territory that includes the County of Contra Costa, and, among other things, authorizes the board of directors of the district to impose transactions and use taxes in conformity with the Transactions and Use Tax Law for specified purposes, subject to periodic legislative review and amendment, as provided.

This bill would provide that, notwithstanding the combined rate limit under the Transactions and Use Tax Law, neither a transaction and use tax rate imposed in the County of Contra Costa by the transportation authority under the above-described authority nor a transactions and use tax rate imposed by the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District, as specified, will be considered for purposes of that combined rate limit within the County of Contra Costa. The bill would declare that the changes made with regard to taxes imposed by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority for countywide transportation programs are declaratory of existing law.

This bill would make legislative findings and declarations as to the necessity of a special statute for the County of Contra Costa.

<hr size=1 width=1209 style=’width:907.1pt’ noshade style=’color:#333333′>

BILL TEXT

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

SECTION 1.

Section 29140 of the Public Utilities Code is amended to read:

29140.

(a) The board shall, by ordinance, impose transactions and use taxes in conformity with Part 1.6 (commencing with Section 7251) of Division 2 of the Revenue and Taxation Code for the purposes specified in Sections 29142 and 29142.2, subject to periodic legislative review and amendment.

(b) (1) Notwithstanding Section 7251.1 of the Revenue and Taxation Code, a transactions and use tax rate imposed pursuant to subdivision (a) on or before January 1, 2020, that applies within the County of Alameda shall not be considered for purposes of the combined rate limit within the County of Alameda established by that section.

(2) Notwithstanding Section 7251.1 of the Revenue and Taxation Code, a transactions and use tax rate imposed pursuant to subdivision (a) on or before the effective date of the act adding this subdivision that applies within the County of Contra Costa shall not be considered for purposes of the combined rate limit within the County of Contra Costa established by that section.

SEC. 2.

Section 7291 of the Revenue and Taxation Code is amended to read:

7291.

(a) Notwithstanding any other law, the Contra Costa Transportation Authority may impose a transactions and use tax for the support of countywide transportation programs at a rate of no more than 0.5 percent that would, in combination with all taxes imposed pursuant to Part 1.6 (commencing with Section 7251), exceed the limit established in Section 7251.1, if all of the following requirements are met:

(1) The Contra Costa Transportation Authority adopts an ordinance proposing the transactions and use tax by any applicable voting approval requirement.

(2) The ordinance proposing the transactions and use tax is submitted to the electorate and is approved by the voters voting on the ordinance pursuant to Article XIII C of the California Constitution.

(3) The transactions and use tax conforms to the Transactions and Use Tax Law, Part 1.6 (commencing with Section 7251), other than Section 7251.1.

(b) (1) Notwithstanding Section 7251.1, a transactions and use tax rate imposed pursuant to subdivision (a) shall not be considered for purposes of the combined rate limit established by Section 7251.1.

(2) This subdivision does not constitute a change in, but is declaratory of, existing law.

SEC. 3.

The Legislature finds and declares that a special statute is necessary and that a general statute cannot be made applicable within the meaning of Section 16 of Article IV of the California Constitution because of the unique fiscal pressures being experienced in the County of Contra Costa.

 

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State Senate passes Glazer bill to allow for Contra Costa half-cent sales tax increase measure on November ballot

Friday, September 4th, 2020

Awaits Gov. Newsom’s signature; will cost county $547,700 even if he vetoes bill; would raise an estimated $81 million per year.

By Allen Payton

On Monday, Aug. 31, the last day of the legislative session, the California State Senate passed SB1349 authored by Senator Steve Glazer (D-7, Orinda), to allow Contra Costa County Supervisors to place a half-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot on a vote of 29-10-1. According to the state’s Legislative Information website, the bill was presented to Governor Newsom at 6:30 p.m., that night. He has until Sept. 30 to either sign or veto the bill and if he chooses to take no action it automatically becomes law.

During a special meeting held on Friday, Aug. 21, the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to approve an urgency ordinance placing the measure on the November ballot if the State Senate passed the bill by Aug. 31 and it was signed by the governor. Board Chair Candace Andersen, who opposes asking the voters for a tax increase during the COVID-19 pandemic, was the lone no vote.

As of Friday, the governor still hadn’t signed or vetoed the bill, according to Steven Harmon, Glazer’s spokesman, who wrote, “Checking. Though, as of yesterday I don’t think he had.”

While Newsom has until the end of September to sign or veto legislation, Harmon added, “I think a premium has been made to get a quick signature,” because any delay holds up the printing of the ballots in Contra Costa County.

The measure is estimated to cost the county $547,700 to place it on the ballot, according to County Clerk-Recorder Deborah Cooper.

The supervisors were asked to consider whether to adopt Ordinance No. 2020-23, an urgency ordinance amending the effective date of the ordinance establishing a general Countywide 0.5% sales tax and acknowledge that if Senate Bill 1349 is not approved by the Legislature by August 31, 2020, Ordinance 2020-22 (as amended) will still be printed on the November 3, 2020 ballot, even though the ordinance will not be effective.

So, labeled Measure X, the ballot language is already on the County Elections Division website, just in case the governor signs the bill and if passed will not go into effect if the governor vetoes the bill.

It asks voters, “To keep Contra Costa’s regional hospital open and staffed; fund community health centers; provide timely fire and emergency response; support crucial safety-net services; invest in early childhood services; protect vulnerable populations; and for other essential county services, shall the Contra Costa County measure levying a ½ cent sales tax, exempting food sales, providing an estimated $81,000,000 annually for 20 years that the State cannot take, requiring fiscal accountability, with funds benefitting County residents, be adopted?”

Assistant Registrar of Voters for the county, Scott Konopasek, was asked what is the drop deadline date for sending the ballots to print in time to get them to the voters and avoid the additional cost. He responded, “The ballots are at the printer already. The bill becomes law without a signature as long as he doesn’t veto. In the event of a veto, we will not count or report any results.”

In California, the legislative process works just the opposite of the pocket veto for the president and federal legislation. According to Congressional Quarterly, the “Governor must veto legislation within 12 days of ‘transmittal’ or they automatically become law. However, for bills adopted during the last 12 days of a legislative session and still on the governor’s desk the day the legislature adjourns, usually Aug. 31, the governor has until Sept. 30 to veto before they automatically become law. Governor has a ‘reduction’ veto that provides the ability to reduce – but not increase – proposed appropriations in a particular line item within any spending bill. Legislators can override a veto with a 2/3rd vote of both chambers, but only the governor can call a special session to do so.”

In addition, Supervisor Andersen was asked for any new information her office might have regarding the governor’s action on the bill. She responded, “At our August 21, 2020 Special Meeting the Board of Supervisors authorized putting it on the ballot. It will be on the November ballot, but just would have no effect if the governor chooses to veto the bill. Karen agreed to support it because the elections cost were going to be lower than initially thought since we’re not including the text of the full measure, and the language of the bill was tweaked to better reflect what the governor has signed/agreed to in the past.”

As a result, Measure X will be on the November ballot in Contra Costa County. But if the governor vetoes SB1349, and the measure passes it will not go into effect, which means the sales tax in the county will not increase by a half percent.

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In spite of public opposition Supervisors approve COVID-19 violation ordinance, fines

Wednesday, July 29th, 2020

“You are not being inconvenienced that much.” – Supervisor Karen Mitchoff

  • Half-Cent Sales Tax Ballot Measure Plans Hung Up in Sacramento

  • Sheriff Continues Cooperation With ICE

By Daniel Borsuk

Over citizen objections, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0, Tuesday to approve fines for non-commercial and commercial public health violations in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new ordinance that goes into effect immediately requires citizens to wear face masks in the public and in commercial settings or one can be subject to a fine, or multiple fines.

Contra Costa County Health Services Director Anna Roth told supervisors the county needs an ordinance setting down fines because as of Tuesday the county’s COVID-19 caseload is still rising with 7,304 cases. In the county there have been 108 COVID-19 related deaths, she reported, of which 70 percent occurred in long term care facilities. County health officials have observed a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases since May. Roth pointed out the county is on the state’s COVID-19 Monitoring List.

Deputy County Health Director Randy Sawyer explained there is an “urgent need” for county supervisors to adopt an ordinance establishing fees so that county health enforcement officers can enforce public health orders especially during the current pandemic.  Citizens are not wearing masks and are not practicing social distancing, Sawyer said.

Sawyer said there are about 200 businesses that the county has ongoing public health complaint issues with the department.

Similar ordinances have recently been adopted in Marin and Napa counties, and the Contra Costa County ordinance requires persons to wear masks when engaged in noncommercial and commercial activities.  In Contra Costa, for the first noncommercial violation the fine is $100, $200 for the second violation and $500 for each additional violation within one year of the initial violation.

For commercial activity violations, the fine for the first violation is $250, $500 for a second violation, and $1,000 for each additional violation within one year of the initial violation. “If a violation continues to more than one day, each day is a separate violation,” the ordinance states.

Public Opposition to Mask Ordinance & Fines

Speakers opposing the ordinance said requiring persons to wear masks violates their Constitutional rights. “I oppose this ordinance because it violates our liberties, “said Dave Sutton. “It restricts our liberties.”

Similarly, Deborah Thompson said, “I oppose the ordinance because it is an abridgement of our liberties.”

Comments like those sparked District One Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond to say, “I am shocked by the lack of literacy and scant knowledge that people have.”

The supervisor said some people don’t understand that this virus is causing a public health crisis where this county “may soon run out of ICU beds and two thirds of the people who have died in the county lived in congregant living facilities.”

“We are out to get these numbers down,” Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill said in reference to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the county. “A health order will do that. You are not being inconvenienced that much.”

Mitchoff, who noted Contra Costa County’s fines are less than other Bay Area county fines, said  the new ordinance will mean persons will now be required to wear a mask when they out of their house, even when they go to the fast-food drive thru. “If you don’t want to wear a mask then get used to wearing a ventilator,” the supervisor warned.

Richmond resident Edith Alderman supported the ordinance commenting,” I’m 100 percent in favor of the ordinance.  This can help get a handle on this disease.”

Speaking on behalf of the board, Chair Candace Andersen of Danville said “Many people are following the Health Order, but we need to increase our efforts together to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community. To further our progress, to protect lives and reopen more local businesses and activities, we need a tool to send a fair message that everyone has to adhere to health orders to prevent the spread of the virus.”

“With a 14 percent unemployment rate, this is not the time for a sales tax hike” – Board Chair Candace Andersen

Half-Cent Sales Tax Ballot Measure Plans Hung Up in Sacramento

With the legislative clock ticking in Sacramento, the supervisors plan to meet at a special teleconferenced meeting next Tuesday in order to get a status report to waive the second reading on the supervisors’ resolution calling for a Nov. 3 half cent sales tax ballot proposal.

The special meeting was called because state legislators have not convened to act on proposed legislation, especially Contra Costa County State Senator Steve Glazer’s Senate Bill 1349, a transactions and use tax law, that the supervisors need the state Legislature to pass and Governor Gavin Newsom to sign by August 18 or the supervisors’ half cent sales proposal will not appear on the November ballot.

Deputy County Administrator Tim Ewell explained without passage of SB 1349, the county will  lose $800,000 to $1 million in state revenue to cover printing costs tied to the ballot measure, but the clock is ticking and the supervisors need to have SB 1349 passed in the legislature and signed by the governor by August 18.

“I want those funds,” said supervisor Mitchoff, “but it will only move forward if the legislature acts.”

Supervisors voted 4-1, with Chair Candace Andersen of Danville casting the lone opposing vote, to move forward to meet next Tuesday.

“I will not support it” said Andersen, who also opposed the tax increase proposal at the board’s July 14 meeting.  “With a 14 percent unemployment rate, this is not the time for a sales tax hike with such high unemployment rate.”

One of the few speakers opposing the proposal Tom Townsend of El Cerrito, said, “I am taxed to the limit and I oppose the half cent sales tax.”

“I am unsure if this ballot measure will pass,” warned District 3 Supervisor Mitchoff, but she voted in favor of it anyway.

Tax proponent Supervisor Gioia said a county resident would typically pay $60 to $80 a year should the tax measure pass in November.

The proposed language for the county tax measure reads:

“To keep Contra Costa’s regional hospital open and staffed; fund community health centers; provide timely fire and emergency response; support crucial safety-net services; invest in early childhood services, shall the Contra Costa County measure levying a ½ cent sales tax, exempting food sales, providing an estimated $81,000,000 annually for 20 years that the state cannot take, requiring fiscal accountability, with funds benefitting county residents, be adopted?”

Sheriff Continues Cooperation with ICE

Sheriff David Livingston ran into criticism from the public about how the Sheriff’s Office works with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) but is not expected to change his policies.

“The Sheriff continues to respond to ICE notification requests,” said Melanie Kim, a staff attorney for Advance Justice – Asian Law Caucus. “These practices are especially cruel given that COVID-19 is running rampant inside ICE facilities.  People in ICE custody are vulnerable to grave illness or death.”

The sheriff told supervisors that because of the COVID-19 hygiene practices that his officers and the inmates use at the West Contra Costa facility in Richmond and Martinez jail, there have been no reported COVID-19 cases.

The sheriff reported that in the past year his office detained for ICE enforcement purposes, 72 were Hispanic prisoners, 18 were Asian prisoners, one was a Black prisoner, three were white prisoners, and two “other” prisoners.

Sheriff Livingston said of the 95 prisoners reported to ICE, 71 were charged for miscellaneous felonies, four for penal or murder, five for robbery, two for car jackings, and for 11 for assaults with deadly weapons.

While there were a number of critics of the Sheriff’s Office asking that the Board of Supervisors to reduce funding for the upcoming 2020-2021 fiscal year, Karen Clarkson was one of few backers of Sheriff Livingston’s department requesting that funding remain unchanged. “I support the Sheriff,” she said. “It is an unsafe practice to defund the Sheriff.”

“This county should be safe for everyone, whether they are documented or undocumented,” said Anisha Walker, who requested that supervisors cut funds to the Sheriff’s Office.

“I have no sympathy for those who break the law and are violent criminals, “said Supervisor Mitchoff. “I support the sheriff. And I support social justice and equality at a time we are in a COVID -19 pandemic.”

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OP-ED: Prop. 13 is working, reject Prop. 15’s $12 billion annual tax increase

Saturday, July 25th, 2020

By Jon Coupal and Ernest Dronenburg

Come November, Proposition 13 faces its biggest political battle at the ballot box. It is instructive to ask whether that iconic tax affordability measure remains good tax policy for California.

As the just-released property tax assessments rolls from several California counties reveal, Proposition 13 is working exceedingly well at keeping homeowners and small business owners from losing their properties to skyrocketing property taxes, while delivering government a reliable source of revenue. Voters would be foolish to repeal one of its major protections this November.

Take San Diego County, for example. The assessed value of all taxable property increased to a record high $604.75 billion, more than a five percent increase over last year. Because the state-set “lien date” is January 1st, any potential impact from COVID-19 won’t show up in this year’s numbers. Nonetheless, there is little to suggest that the county will see any major downturn in the real estate market, notwithstanding the pandemic.

San Diego’s experience with Proposition 13, as with most California counties, should lay to rest the notion that Proposition 13 has starved local government of revenue. Since 1978, increases in property tax revenue for local governments have far exceeded population and inflation. And while California now has the highest income tax rate, gas tax and sales tax rate in America, we remain in the top third (17th out of 50) in per capita property tax revenue. In short, we are not a low property tax state.

Hardly an outlier, San Diego County’s benefits from Prop. 13 are evident in the other counties that just reported their assessment rolls. These eleven counties all enjoyed big increases in taxable value that produced more revenue for schools and governments, including Fresno (up 5.5 percent), Marin (4.5 percent) and Orange (4.72 percent).

So how is it possible that, over the course of 41 years of history, Prop. 13 continues to work so well? Prop. 13 is an implicit contract with government that says property owners agree to pay a maximum property tax rate of 1 percent for as long as they own the property and agree to an annual increase of that taxable value up to 2 percent. When the property changes owners, it is reassessed at the market value and the new owner gets the benefit of a transparent and predictable tax they can afford. Prior to Prop. 13, every year was a guessing game as to whether you could afford your property taxes.

But now, far-left progressives and tax-hungry public sector labor interests want to strip away that protection from business and industrial properties in order to seize what they believe to be between $6 billion to $12 billion annually in taxes. Even their estimate of revenue has huge volatility.

Their Proposition 15 proposal on the November ballot would require continuous reassessment of business properties by removing the two percent cap on annual increases.

There are many reasons to reject Prop. 15. But as the 58 counties release their assessment rolls, it’s more evident than ever that Prop. 13 has delivered affordability for property owners and a stable and growing revenue source for schools and local governments. We shouldn’t abandon a system that’s working.

We should reject Proposition 15 in November. It’s obvious that it will have a negative impact on revenue stability for our schools and on stability for taxpayers. We will see businesses closing not because of the pandemic, but because they cannot afford to pay their property taxes.

Jon Coupal is the president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and Ernest J. Dronenburg, Jr. is the elected San Diego County Assessor/Recorder/Clerk and former 20-year member of the California Board of Equalization and Chairman of its Property Tax Committee.

 

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