Oakland Property Taxes Among Highest in California, Residents Frustrated

Oakland Property Taxes Among Highest in California, Residents Frustrated
A Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train leaves the Rockridge station in Oakland, Calif., on March 15, 2023. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Travis Gillmore

Despite paying higher property taxes than many other areas in California, some Oakland, California, residents say the services received are not reflective of the money collected.

With an average property tax of approximately 1.38 percent, only a handful of cities’ rates are higher.

“Our taxes are higher than in cities that are doing good,” longtime Oakland resident Gerald Walker told The Epoch Times. “It doesn’t make any sense. Why are our streets so bad, and why don’t we have money for the police if we’re paying all this money in?”

With crime impacting the area in what is described as unprecedented levels of robberies, home invasions, and carjackings, some taxpayers and city officials are at odds with how to proceed—with a recent, missed opportunity to secure millions of dollars in grant money for police funding at the center of the debate.

Property taxes typically fund local services, like street repairs, police and fire department allocations, and support for schools, libraries, and parks.

“We’re out here wondering why our schools are failing, our city is trashed, and nobody seems to care,” Mr. Walker said. “They keep taking our money, but we have nothing to show for it.”

Tax rates vary and are determined by property location and which school district is nearby. Districts also levy taxes based on measures and bondsfor community projects.

“Rates can vary throughout the city, because different districts serve the area,” Trina Caballero, tax analysis specialist with the Alameda County Tax Assessor, told The Epoch Times by email Sept. 21. “Levying districts are responsible for calculating those amounts.”

Such differences account for a range from 1.19 to 1.44 percent in the city, with the majority of properties falling in districts charging approximately 1.38 percent.

Bonds for the Oakland Unified School District and Peralta Community College account for more than .14 percent, with .02 percent for public transportation and parks, while the city adds .2 percent to the tax, according to city tax records.

Some exemptions exist for low-income homeowners, seniors, nonprofits, religious organizations, schools, and others.

Housing affordability remains an issue in Oakland, with an average home price of more than $800,000—down nearly 9 percent over last year, according to online real estate listing firm Zillow.

Homeowners purchasing at such a price would pay approximately $11,000 annually in property taxes and special assessments, calculated at the average tax rate.

All other cities in Alameda County—where Oakland is located—have lower property tax rates, including Berkeley—averaging 1.21 percent—and Alameda at 1.18 percent.

Purchasing a similarly priced home elsewhere in the county would save a homeowner approximately $1,600 annually in property taxes, as compared to Oakland, based on current rates.

Estimated to account for 4 percent of homeowners’ annual income in Alameda County, property tax contributes to the housing affordability dilemma, according to experts.

Compared to Oakland, most other areas in California offer significantly lower property tax rates—including Irvine in Orange County at just over 1.03 percent and Santa Barbara and Los Angeles each hovering near 1.2 percent.

On the other end of the spectrum, Riverside County in Southern California is home to a wide range of tax rates, including the highest in the state—Desert Hot Springs at nearly 2.3 percent.

Homeowners in California are protected from property tax increases by Proposition 13—passed by voters in 1978 limiting the tax to 1 percent of sales price plus up to 2 percent annual increases—but subsequent measures passed by voters can increase taxes for all homes in the area, typically by a fraction of a percentage point for school or local infrastructure bonds.

Travis Gillmore is an avid reader and journalism connoisseur based in California covering finance, politics, the State Capitol, and breaking news for The Epoch Times.
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