The tax, which the council routinely renews every year, is broken down into three categories: the Zone 1 tax, for citywide parks, is nearly $1 million; Zone 2, for citywide street lighting, is nearly $190,000; Zone 3, for newer neighborhoods, is $1.75 million.
If you moved to Oakley before 2004, you pay only $32 per year into the Zone 1 tax. If you moved in after that, you have been paying at least $211 annually for the same park maintenance, with the tax increasing each year with inflation. But if you live in Shea Homes’ Summer Lakes neighborhood at the end of East Cypress Road, you’re currently paying $462 (with a possible maximum of $890).
The Zone 2 tax is $15 for residents in 9,000 of Oakley’s older houses. Residents who moved to Oakley since 2006 pay $47 annually, a tax that also increases with inflation.
The biggest discrepancy between longtime and newer residents occurs with the Zone 3 tax. It applies to 26 neighborhoods in Oakley; if you don’t live in one of them, you pay nothing into this tax. If you do live in one of them, how much you pay depends on where you live – and again, newer residents usually pay more.
Residents in the 128 houses in the California Sunrise neighborhood pay the least: $27 per house annually. The 1,277 houses in the Vintage Parkway area live in the first Zone 3 tax district (set up in 1985) and pay $58. Residents in 12 other neighborhoods pay somewhere between $100 and $200.
The potentially most expensive Zone 3 neighborhood is, again, Summer Lakes with a possible maximum tax of nearly $1,500 per house. But that has been reduced in the coming year to $400 – which gives the dubious prize of Oakley’s highest Zone 3 tax neighborhood to Magnolia Park, which pays $1,170 per house. Other expensive neighborhoods are Reserve/Stonebrook, with a potential of $636 (but which has been reduced to zero in the coming year); South Oakley, which pays $423; and Cypress Grove, which pays $365.
Despite all the taxation, the city does not take in enough money to pay for all of the maintenance costs. Officials are spending $86,000 from the $600,000-$650,000 that the city gets from the gas tax on light and landscape maintenance instead of the road maintenance for which the fund is intended.
In addition, the reserve funds are being drawn down in Zones 1 and 2, because nearly $110,000 more will be spent in the coming year than is expected in revenue. And that worries Councilwoman Pat Anderson, who suggested darkening some areas of Oakley.
“Hard to see, difficult to watch as our fund balances go down in these districts because of the economic times,” she said at the June 9 council meeting. “We are now dipping into the reserves to take care of things. And that’s what our reserves are for. But too many dips and there won’t be anything left. I know we are very diligent in how we watch and take of this. (But) it’s slightly frightening.
“We might want to consider a reduction in street lighting. Safety is of importance. But there might be some areas in the city with every other light off, or whatever that might be, as long as it doesn’t cause too much difficulty. Safety, again, is something we’d have to look at. But it may be something that we’re going to have to resort to. I hope not, but (these are) tough times.”