Or, if you can't tear yourself away from the prospect of horrible schools, murder as a way of life and a mayor who looks and sounds like Ronald McDonald in grayscale, at least make sure you read the fine print.
As October ends, we unlucky Oakland homeowners receive our annual property tax assessments. They read like a comedy routine -- as if the government designed them to cause the gap between amount paid and services received to be as wide as possible.
Actually, now that I think about it, that is exactly the objective of liberal government, and Oakland does it well.
Let's take a look at some aggregate numbers and then dive into the specifics of Oakland's annual property extortion. This information is all available at the Alameda County property tax site. The numbers provided are for a typical house, and they do vary from house to house.
Ad Valorem tax rates:
Berkeley - 1.26%
Oakland - 1.33%
Piedmont - 1.17%
Fremont - 1.11%
Hayward - 1.10%
Berkeley - $1,183
Oakland - $740
Piedmont - $3,407
Fremont - $355
Hayward - $205
These tables are pretty self explanatory. Most other East Bay cities have numbers that look similar to Fremont and Hayward. By choosing to live in Berkeley or Oakland, a homeowner is paying an outrageous and indefensible amount of tax.
There is no reasonable explanation for why these cities need to tax citizens so much more than other cities -- no explanation other than pure shameless liberalism, that is. The only tax with some explanation is the high parcel tax rate in Piedmont, which pays for one of the country's best public school systems and is well worth paying for.
How do Berkeley and Oakland get away with this? Simple. Because many higher-income residents choose to live here to be close to their jobs in San Francisco or on the peninsula, those cities can charge a higher tax without providing them any return on investment. Think of it as a toll or an entry fee.
The situation becomes even more absurd when looking at the specifics of Oakland's parcel taxes:
- $80 annually goes to pay for one of the Bay Area's worst library systems -- one which still doesn't even have free wi-fi.
- $110 goes to the "LLAD" which is a well-known fraud and slush-fund for local politicians to grease their supporters.
- $200 goes to schools through Measure E. Residents would do just as well to light two hundred dollar bills on fire. Oakland schools are garbage.
- $88 goes to the Violence Prevention tax. As far as I can tell, they should rename this the "Violence Promotion Tax." Evidently, the more we pay, the more they rob and murder us.
- If you live in the hills area, $65 goes to pay for your own private fire department, because the city government refuses to pay for those pesky middle-class people's fire protection.
The 1.33% ad valorem tax is one of the highest in the state (if not the highest -- I haven't had time to check). Along with the real estate transfer tax, it helps ensure that Oakland real estate remains depressed. That tax is so high because city agencies -- schools included -- have managed to max out their credit cards on bonded projects which, as usual, haven't managed to help any of the city's obvious problems.
Meanwhile, Mayor Dumbledore and his buddies continue to lobby for even higher property taxes. It's an ugly situation, and one which should discourage anyone from buying a house in Oakland.
One piece of advice for homeowners just receiving their tax extortion notice. Each parcel tax has a phone number next to it. I strongly suggest you call each one to verify that you should in fact be paying that tax. I own a vacant lot in the city which Oakland repeatedly attempts to tax for items which specifically exempted vacant lots.
I have reason to believe this practice is widespread. And why not? It makes the city plenty of money.
So, call those numbers and demand a refund if the taxes have been levied in error. If the taxes are accurate, at least you've wasted the time of someone in city government.
A minor victory indeed, but at least it means you'll have received some sort of service from the city. Just don't get used to it. Pay your taxes and shut up. This is Oakland.