Difference between revisions of "West Contra Costa Healthcare District Parcel Tax Question, Measure C (May 2014)"

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This tax does not solve Doctors financial problems.
This tax does not solve Doctors financial problems.
| author = Margie Liberty, Marilynne L. Mellander, Paul Sartur, Eddy Guerra, Deberah Henson
| author = Margie Liberty, Marilynne L. Mellander, Paul Sartur, Eddy Guerra, Deberah Henson
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Revision as of 16:45, 7 April 2014

Voting on Taxes
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A West Contra Costa Healthcare District Parcel Tax, Measure C ballot question is on the May 6, 2014 election ballot for voters in the West Contra Costa Healthcare District in Contra Costa County, California.

If approved, Measure C would authorize a special property tax in the West Contra Costa Healthcare District of 14 cents per square foot on the houses of district residents, which amounts to $168 per year for a 1,200-square-foot house and $280 for a 2,000 square-foot house. This tax would be in addition to a parcel tax of $99 per year per parcel that property owners already pay to fund the district's hospital, Doctors Medical Center (DMC). This Measure C tax has no set sunset date and would not expire unless the hospital and emergency room closed down.[1]

District voters approved a parcel tax to fund the hospital in 2011 under Measure J.

A 2/3rds supermajority vote is required for approval of Measure C.

Text of measure

Ballot question

The official ballot question for Measure C is:[2]

To maintain local emergency room care and continue to provide critical medical services, such as intensive care, care for heart attacks, emergency respiratory care and cancer treatment, shall the West Contra Costa Healthcare District be authorized to levy an annual special tax of fourteen cents per square foot of building area per parcel, with annual audits by an independent oversight committee?[3]

Impartial analysis

The county counsel provided the following statement as an impartial analysis of Measure C:

The Board of Directors of the West Contra Costa Healthcare District has adopted a resolution proposing a parcel tax (a qualified special tax). This ballot measure asks voters to decide whether a parcel tax should be imposed on parcels of real property located within the District beginning July 1, 2014.

If this measure passes, a parcel tax of 14 cents per square foot of total building area, excluding residential carports, would be levied on each parcel of taxable real property within the District beginning July 1, 2014. The measure states that the total building area on each parcel of taxable real property would be determined based on information from the Contra Costa County Assessor, or, if that information is missing from the Assessor's records, from the records of the building department of the jurisdiction in which the property is located. The measure states that the parcel tax would expire if Doctor's Medical Center and its Emergency Room permanently close.

A parcel of taxable real property is any unit of real property located in the District that receives a separate property tax bill from the Contra Costa County Treasurer-Tax Collector's Office. The parcel tax would not be levied on parcels that are exempt from paying property taxes.

The ballot measure states that the proceeds from the parcel tax will be used for capital improvement expenditures and debt repayment, and to defray operating expenses. Proceeds from the parcel tax may be used only for the specific purposes set forth in the ballot measure and according to constitutional and statutory provisions.

State law requires the District's chief fiscal officer to file an annual report with the District's Board of Directors that states the amount of funds received and expended in each year and the status of any projects required or authorized to be funded with parcel tax proceeds. State law also requires the proceeds from the parcel tax to be deposited into a designated account. The measure states that an independent citizens' oversight committee will review annual audits and report to the Board of Directors and the public on the expenditure of parcel tax proceeds.

Two-thirds of those voting on the ballot measure must approve the measure for it to pass.

A "yes" vote is a vote in favor of authorizing the parcel tax.

A "no" vote is a vote against authorizing the parcel tax. [3]

—Contra Costa County Counsel, [4]




  • Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, of Richmond, said, "There is clearly voter tax fatigue in West County. We have our work cut out for us."[1]
  • A "yes on C" campaign was formed called Keep our ER Open.[5]

The following people signed the official arguments in favor of Measure C:[4]

  • Desmond Carson MD, emergency room physician
  • Humayun Tufail M.D., Chief of Hospitalist Services
  • Laura Baeza, emergency department nurse
  • John Gioia, Contra Costa County Supervisor
  • Vern Whitmore, incoming president of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce

Arguments in favor

Supporters of the tax hope that, if the district and the hospital can establish fiscal stability, it could find a partner in another local jurisdiction. Hospital spokeswoman Remy Goldsmith said .".. it was made clear to us that no other hospital or hospital system would affiliate with DMC if it meant assuming a large annual deficit."[1]

In previous campaigns for DMC parcel taxes, proponents requested advertising and campaigning contributions from Kaiser Permanente and John Muir Medical Center. According to Supervisor Gioia, these past donors will be solicited once again for the 2014 Measure Campaign.[1]

Official arguments

The following arguments were submitted in favor of Measure C:

Vote yes on Measure C to keep Doctors Medical Center and its emergency room open. We must save our local ER and hospital from closing. If you're in an accident or hurt, you need immediate medical care. If you have a stroke or heart attack, you need to get to a hospital fast. In West County, an ambulance will take you to the ER at Doctors Medical Center (DMC), even if you're a Kaiser member. But what if DMC wasn't there anymore? 40,000 patients visit DMC's ER every year. Where will they go?

Without DMC's ER, patients will be diverted to other hospitals much farther away. Kaiser's ER only has 15 beds and may have to serve 100 additional patients a day, forcing wait times as long as 10 hours. This is unacceptable and dangerous.

Seconds count in an emergency and extra travel time could mean the difference between full recovery, long-term disability or even death.

DMC is the stroke and heart attack center for all West County. It's our only public emergency room, serving all residents. The hospital provides free breast cancer screening for low-income women and free health screenings for seniors.

If we don't pass this measure, DMC and its emergency room will close. We will lose the emergency services that are essential to any community and that we all need.

The hospital has cut costs, reduced overhead, and eliminated management positions. Government reimbursements continue to decline, so while the cost of care is going up, the money DMC receives is going down.

The choice for voters in West County is clear. Vote yes to keep the hospital and its emergency room open. Vote no and our hospital and ER will permanently close, creating a healthcare catastrophe.

Vote YES on Measure C. Mail in your ballot today. [3]



Alex Aliferis, executive director of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association, said, "Independent districts that tax are really numerous. The average homeowner is feeling the pinch."[1]

The following district residents and homeowners signed the official arguments against Measure C:[4]

  • Margie Liberty
  • Marilynne L. Mellander
  • Paul Sartur
  • Eddy Guerra
  • Deberah Henson

Arguments against

The following arguments were submitted in opposition to Measure C:

Doctors Hospital has had a financially unsustainable revenue stream for decades. What this hospital needs is a long term solution not a short term, piecemeal one such as another parcel tax.

  • The people of West County are already the most heavily taxed of any in the county
  • Taxpayers are already paying two parcel taxes to Doctors --a 2004 tax for $52 per parcel and a 2011 tax for $47. The new tax would be an additional $210 for a 1500 square foot house, more than double the existing two taxes!
  • If passed, homeowners will be paying more than $300 in parcel taxes
  • This will be a "forever" tax with no sunset clause
  • There is no senior exemption for this or the other two hospital taxes
  • Doctors has already received millions contributed by Kaiser and John Muir + it's not their responsibility to bail out the hospital
  • Under state law, the County and the Board of Supervisors must ensure that healthcare is available to its medically indigent residents + not West County taxpayers. State or Federal tax dollars should be made available to keep this facility open.
  • Imposing an expensive tax on West County citizens to give hospital administration the leverage to pursue additional outside financing places a permanent unfair burden on County taxpayers
  • The hospital will not close. It can go into bankruptcy as it did in 2006 + in spite of getting the 2004 parcel tax revenue + and stay open. Even if Doctor's partners with another healthcare organization citizens will continue to pay current parcel taxes

This tax does not solve Doctors financial problems. [3]

—Margie Liberty, Marilynne L. Mellander, Paul Sartur, Eddy Guerra, Deberah Henson, [4]


The Contra Costa Times published an editorial that advocated a "no" vote on Measure C. It stated that it was time for the hospital to give up and finally admit that it is not financially feasible. The editorial said:

In 2011, we urged district officials to work quickly to find a permanent solution before this year, when projections showed the district would run out of money.

That day has come. There has been no progress in 2 1/2 years. District officials are still talking about the savior hospital with which it can merge. Meanwhile, it's hemorrhaging money and going deeper into debt.

The hospital now loses roughly $20 million a year, even with the two current tax measures. Worse, to keep the hospital afloat since 2011, the district borrowed $40 million. The money's gone, but the loan won't be paid off until 2042.

It's time for district residents to cut their losses. Even if the district finds a partner, it would have to go back to voters again for another tax to fund construction of a new hospital because the current one is not earthquake safe.

Most of the hospital's services can be provided elsewhere. The concern -- and it's a big one -- is the loss of the emergency room. Without it, residents will be forced to drive farther when they need lifesaving help. [3]

—Contra Costa Times editorial board, [6]

Similar measures

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