By Mike Kinney
As the famous quote by Benjamin Franklin goes, “…In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
While that may be so, 36-year Richmond resident Denise Gianni is also certain that not every tax is necessary, and that all taxes, proposed or imposed, must certainly be scrutinized.
Gianni is the current chairperson of the West Contra Costa County Taxpayer Association (WCCCTA), which is a branch of the Contra Costa Taxpayer Association (CCTA). She’s among a dedicated group of residents calling on their neighbors to join the organization’s mission to keep government spending in check.
“The WCCCTA operates under the idea of ‘Good Government at Affordable Cost,'” Gianni said. “We research tax measures, thoroughly, and balance the need for a new tax.”
The CCTA works to reach out to voters and citizens in general to oppose “unwarranted taxes and fees, discriminatory regulations, ill-advised public expenditures and government secrecy, inefficiency and waste.” As stated on the CCTA website, “We challenge government at all levels to be accountable, responsive, efficient and fair, and to deliver optimal value for every tax dollar.”
“In my opinion, our homes are our castles and should not be the only source of revenue for local government,” Gianni said. “As a member of the WCCCTA, you will be very well informed of any upcoming property taxes, their cost and purpose. You will be informed of previous taxes and how they were spent or misspent.”
Gianni believes residents are taxed enough, and don’t get enough from their taxes. According to data posted by the California Dept. of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA), Contra Costa County’s sales and use tax rate, which includes state, county, local, and district taxes, is among California’s highest at 8.75 percent, lower than only four counties: Alameda (10.25 percent), Los Angeles (9.5), San Mateo (9.375), and Santa Clara (9.125). Richmond’s sales and use tax rate is at 9.75 percent, and San Pablo’s is at 9.25 percent, according to the data. Meanwhile, Contra Costa County’s median property tax rate of $3,883 per year is 6th highest of the state’s 58 counties, according to PropertyTax101.org’s assessment of government data.
“Where is that money going?” Gianni said. “Some residents in Richmond, and members of the WCCCTA, have kept track of all of the past parcel taxes and bonds, so that when a new one is proposed they have the numbers to share proving that a new tax is unnecessary.”
Gianni is currently advising residents against a proposed parcel tax in Richmond to clean up blight. The city is surveying residents about the tax.
“Enough already,” Gianni said. “We citizens live within our budgets, and the government should as well.”
Gianni said she became involved with the fight against more taxes and bonds back in 1987.
“I joined up with CCTA after the WCCUSD put a $72 Assessment on our property tax bill without the vote of taxpayers,” she said. “There was an immediate pushback by the taxpayers and an election was held. The measure passed and the WCCUSD school board renews it every few years without taxpayer input and without accounting for how it is spent.”
Gianni advises, “People should join the West Contra Costa County Taxpayers Association and gather with other over tax burdened citizens to inform each other and all of the resident-taxpayers of the misspending of our tax dollars.”