Issue Updates

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  • 16 Jul 2014 3:44 PM | Anonymous

    Oppose Proposed Unconstitutional Prop 218 East Contra Costa Fire Benefit Assessment Before August 4th

    In 1996, voters approved Prop 218 “Right to Vote on Taxes Act.” Prop 218 requires a ballot to be mailed to property owners for all assessments and property related fees with the exception of water, sewer, and garbage rates. Street lighting assessments, storm water and urban runoff management assessments, etc., are all examples of a ballot that is mailed to voters. The ballot is weighted by the property size.

    Prior to Prop 218, cities were attempting to pass police assessments. Police and fire services are a general benefit that should be paid for via taxes on all residents, not just assessments against homeowners. According to the drafter of Prop 218, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association said that the use of a benefit assessment rather than a special tax to fund fire suppression services constitutes a violation of article XIII D of the California Constitution (“Proposition 218”).

    The Contra Costa Taxpayers Association opposes the use of benefit assessments by the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District or any other fire district. The fire district’s spiraling pension costs is forcing the district to cut fire service just to pay for its pension benefits. In addition, East Contra Costa Fire Protection District prepared for a parcel tax election for either June or Nov 2014. Polling suggested no support for a parcel tax. Then they decided for a benefit assessment.

    Court cases have been litigated against Prop 218 fire district benefit assessments. Recently, the Sacramento Metro Fire District withdrew its proposed benefit assessment over litigation threats. The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District is ignoring previous court cases litigated against fire district Prop 218 benefit assessments.

    The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Board of Directors will meet on August 4th to consider approval of the Engineer’s Report and decide for a fire assessment. If the assessment is pursued, the fire assessment ballot will be mailed out to property owners on August 15, 2014 and there will be a public hearing on fire assessment and tabulation of ballots. It is essential that residents of Brentwood, Oakley, Discovery Bay, Morgan Territory, and Bethel Island attend the August 4th meeting, 6:30pm, Oakley City Council Chambers, 3231 Main Street, Oakley, CA. to oppose the unconstitutional benefit assessment, and to contact the fire chief and board of directors to oppose the assessment.

    The East Contra Costa Fire Protection District is facing future increases in pensions and salaries. The operating budget projections for 2013-2014 show that salaries/benefits are $9.4 million and will jump to $12.7 million in 2018-2019. Revenues in 2013-14 are $12.8 million and will remain at $10.1 million in 2018-2019. Spiraling pension costs is forcing the district to cut services to pay for pension benefits.

    East County Fire Protection Budget and Other Financials:

    Sacramento Bee Editorial:  Metro Fire chief makes right choice to pull tax.

     Sacrament Bee:

    Contact the East County Fire Chief and Members of the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Board to Withdraw their Proposed Benefit Assessment Because it’s Unconstitutional:

    Fire Chief
    Hugh Henderson
    Tel: (925) 240-2131


     To Contact East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Board Members:

    East Contra Costa Fire Protection District

    Administrative Office
    134 Oak Street
    Brentwood, CA 94513
    (925) 634-3400 - Phone

    (925) 634-1423 - Fax

    Chair - Joel Bryant -

    Ronald Johansen-

    Kevin Bouillon-

    Greg Cooper -

    Robert Kenny-

    Jonathan Michaelson-

    Cheryl Morgan -

    Stephen Smith-

    Joe Young -

  • 09 Jul 2014 1:53 PM | Anonymous

    Contra Costa County Administrator Discusses 2014-2015 Budget Concerns and Priorities

    On June 27th, Contra Costa Administrator David Twa gave a fiscal presentation in front of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association breakfast meeting. Recently the county adopted its yearly 2014-2015 budget. The fiscal year is from July 1st to June 30th. Twa monitors the expenses and revenue with needed adjustments.

    He cited optimism in the county such as a balanced budget three years in a row. The county recently paid off a pension obligation bond worth $32.9 million. OPEB (Other Post Employee Benefits) costs were managed. Fund balance increased and a Standard & Poor’s rating increase to AAA.

    However, Twa citied various concerns within the county. The list includes slow economic recovery, state wall of debt, labor negotiations, increased cost of benefits, limited resources, pension liability, fire (structure and funding), Doctor’s Hospital debt, etc. Twa cited how pensions rose $53 million despite paying one pension obligation bond. The county’s other pension obligation bond worth $47.32 million matures June of 2022.

    The county’s pension liabilities are estimated at $3 billion. OPEB liability was reduced from $2.6 billion to under $1 billion since 2006. Total OPEB trust assets are $129.4 million as of December 2013.

    Total revenue is $1.36 billion. General purpose revenue is $351.9 million. Federal revenue is $264.3 million. State revenue is 307.3 million. Other local revenue is $432.79 million. Total expenditures have risen from $1,103,000,000 (2003-2004) to 1,353,000,000 (2014-15). 57% of the budget expense is salaries and benefits while 30% is services and supplies.

    To view the recent 2014-2015 county budget, go to:

  • 10 Jun 2014 3:49 PM | Anonymous

    The Contra Costa Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to conduct a poll for a countywide half cent sales tax. After the defeat of Measure C, the West Contra Costa Healthcare District nursing staff is urging action for a sales tax to avoid shutdown. Supervisor Piepho and Andersen voiced strong opposition towards the countywide sales tax. The Contra Costa Taxpayers Association questioned the proposed sales tax and what it will fund. Contra Costa County has a combined $3.2 billion unfunded pension liability debt. CoCoTax questioned if it was being used to pay for the pensions. Questions were not answered by the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors.


    On May 30 and June 5, the nurses held a public town hall meeting in Hercules and Pleasant Hill for public outreach to keep Doctor’s Medical Hospital open with a countywide sales tax. The county cites how Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Alameda counties have a similar half cent sales tax. At the same time, many local Contra Costa cities such as Walnut Creek, Pinole and Richmond are considering Nov. sales tax ballot measures. The figure can be more than 10% for some cities. It is important to note that Contra Costa County will soon have some of the highest sales taxes in the state of California.


    On Tuesday, June 3rd, the board of supervisors authorized $45,000 to conduct a countywide poll for a Nov. 2014 countywide sales tax. It requires the final vote of four supervisors to submit for a countywide sales tax.


    To voice concerns about high sales taxes in Contra Costa County, please contact your supervisor:


    District I: Supervisor John Gioia (Represents Richmond, El Cerrito, San Pablo)




    District II: Supervisor Candace Andersen (Lamorinda, San Ramon, Danville, portions of Walnut Creek)




    District III: Supervisor Mary Piepho (Brentwood, portions of Antioch, Oakley, Discovery Bay)

    Tel: 925-252-4500



    District IV: Supervisor Karen Mitchoff (Concord, Pleasant Hill, Clayton, portions of Walnut Creek)




    District V: Supervisor Federal Glover (portions of Pinole/Antioch, Hercules, Martinez, Pittsburg, Rodeo)



  • 10 Jun 2014 3:46 PM | Anonymous

    On June 3rd there were two school bonds on the ballot in Contra Costa County. The Contra Costa Taxpayers Association opposed both Measure E (Contra Costa Community College District) and Measure H (West Contra Costa School District). For both measures, CoCoTax wrote ballot arguments and rebuttals. Measure E is a $450 million bond while Measure H is a $270 million bond.

    Measure H failed to pass on Tuesday with a 54.60% NO vote. Measure E narrowly passed with a 56.69% Yes vote. 55% is required to pass school construction related bonds.

    Due to the Measure H defeat, it had a ripple effect in defeating Measure L, a $2 million bond (Kensington Police Protection and Community Services District). It also led to many residents opposing Measure E.

    As we look to the November 4, 2014 election, it’s important to remember that new tax measures are lining up for approval. Supporting CoCoTax via membership or donation helps those who wish to speak to do so with more impact and sometimes it can change the outcome.

    Thank you and congratulations to all those who helped on the opposition to Measure E and Measure H. Your hard work made all the difference in the world.

  • 28 May 2014 3:00 PM | Anonymous

    The Antioch City Council passed a motion for a November 4th rental tax.

    Landlords are opposed to the upcoming rental measure. The Contra Costa Taxpayers Association offered opposition to the rental tax. CoCoTax uncovered Antioch's spiraling pension costs as the problem to their budget woes.

    On Nov 26, 2012, Dan Boreinstein wrote a column, " Antioch rushing to increase pension benefits." The column mentions how Antioch increased pension benefits to Antioch police officers without a cost analysis to its budget.

    At Nov 2012, Antioch had a $59 million dollar of debt for unfunded pension benefits which equals 2.5 years of payroll.

    Ex-Antioch City Manager Jim Jakel and human resources director Michelle Fitzer did not address key issues in 2012.

    On April 2014, the Anitoch Herald wrote an article, "Antioch Council grapples with budget, how to spend Measure C funds." Antioch City Manager Steve Duran said, " In 2008, the typical cost of a police officer, salary and benefits, was $140, 495 and (in the fiscal year ending in 2015), that number is $192, 445, " he said. "That's about a 37% increase per officer...that is the bulk of the cost."

    CoCoTax spoke to the May 27th Antioch City Council on its unfunded spiraling pension costs and to reconsider the rental tax proposal. In response, Antioch City Manager Steve Duran how CoCoTax should be quiet if it has no plan.

  • 28 May 2014 2:34 PM | Anonymous
    On Wednesday. May 21st, the West Contra Costa School District Bond Oversight Committee was upset over the debt waiver application.

    One committee member said he was "mad as hell".
    According to the Contra Costa Times, representatives from KNN Public Finance and other financial advisers said the district plans to ask the state Board of Education to increase its bonding capacity from the legal maximum of 2.5 percent of assessed property values in the district to 5 percent through 2025. Without the increase, the district would not immediately be able to draw money from the new $270 million Measure H on the June ballot, if passed, or from existing construction bond measures as quickly as the district wants.

    The bond oversight committee did not accept the debt waiver application. It created a subcommittee to investigate the debt waiver application.

    To read more on debt waiver application:

    CBS KPIX TV News on May 21st Debt Waiver Application

  • 20 May 2014 3:04 PM | Anonymous

    Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association Says Rodeo Hercules Fire District Violates Prop 218

     According to Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Rodeo Hercules Fire Protection District violates Prop 218.

    Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association authored the 1996 Prop 218(Right to Vote on Taxes Act).

    Prop 218 requires a ballot to be mailed for all assessments and property related fees with the exemption of water, sewer, and garbage rate increases. Street lighting assessments, storm water and urban runoff management assessments, and open space assessment districts are examples where a ballot is required to be mailed to impacted homeowners.

     Ballots are weighted by the size of the property. If approved, the assessment appears on your property tax bill. For water, sewer, and garbage rate increases, a notice is sent out to impacted property owners 30 days before a hearing to approve the increase. Residents protest this increase by showing up or a protest in writing.

     The need for Prop 218 in 1996 grew as municipalities used benefit assessments for general fund purposes. Prior to Prop 218, cities were attempting to pass assessments for police services. Police and fire services are a general benefit that should be paid for via taxes on all residents, not just assessments against homeowners.

    Prop 218 gives taxpayer the right to use the initiative process to reduce or repeal any tax, assessment, fee, or charge. By collecting the signatures of 5% of the number of people in the local district who voted in the last election for governor, one can put any locally imposed levy to a vote.

     In a letter, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association says Rodeo Hercules Fire Protection District violates Prop 218. This came on the eve of the Wednesday, May 14th Rodeo Hercules public hearing.

     Contra Costa Times on Benefit Assessment and CoCoTax:

     To read Engineer’s Report that established Prop 218 Benefit Assessment:


  • 01 May 2014 4:30 PM | Anonymous
     As a result of CocoTax’s involvement, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association recently stepped in to question the financing of this massive Delta Tunnels project.

     Businessweek Article on Howard Jarvis Letter that Questions the Financing of Delta Tunnels:
  • 29 Apr 2014 4:31 PM | Anonymous

    The Ventura County Taxpayers Association turned in thousands of petitions to qualify for a a a November 2014 pension reform initiative.

    According to a independent analysis by the Reason Foundation, Ventura County will save $460 million and reduce long term liabilies by $1.8 billion.

    Ventura County has over 900,000 residents while Contra Costa County has 1.09 million residents.



  • 08 Apr 2014 3:35 PM | Anonymous
    CoCoTax has released a video/write up by former Vallejo Councilmember Stephanie Gomes on the March 20th event by the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed on pension reform. The pension reform initiative has been postponed for 2014. However, it will be pushed for 2016.

    On a special note, the Ventura County Taxpayers Association is circulating a petition for pension reform in Ventura County.

    Mayor Chuck Reed Video at March 20th Contra Costa Taxpayers Association Luncheon:

    Major Points on Chuck Reed's Pension Reform Initiative:
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