Alamo citizens haven't seen anything yet.
In 18 months - the lag time for Contra Costa County to adjust the county employees' pension plan - the county must start making up an estimated $1.3 billion loss in pension investments this year.
According to county officials, the county must cover the loss when there is a shortfall in the market. Money to make up the loss will come from money that would have paid for county services in unincorporated areas like Alamo.
Already trying to pay down a $1.7 billion unfunded liability for employee benefits, the county has cut Sheriff's services in unincorporated areas each of the past three years. The $1.3 billion pension loss will trigger significant further cuts in county services as well as significant county efforts to develop new revenue sources in unincorporated areas like Alamo.
Alamo can remain unincorporated county, or Alamo can incorporate as a town. The town would contract for most services, avoiding crippling effects of employee pension plans, and it would receive the benefits of its own healthy property tax revenues from its older homes, compared to those of newer county housing stock, now re-assessed below original market value.
Alamo citizens: Vote to incorporate Alamo.
Teresa Schutzman, Alamo
Incorporate Alamo to save Alamo
In uncertain economic times, we look for certainty in local government. It's comforting for Alamo citizens to see Contra Costa County, Alamo's local government, as our safe governance in the economic storm. The county is big - one of the region's largest employers - with a $1.2 billion annual budget. It has maintained our public roads well. If physical disaster struck our community, we want to believe the county would take responsibility for clean-up and restoration.
But facts belie what we want to believe. Contra Costa County has a $1.7 billion unfunded liability for benefits for its large employee force. It must pay down that liability by severely cutting services and increasing residential and commercial development in all unincorporated areas. Overhead costs of its public works department are so great it often contracts for road work with private firms - and it has repeatedly tried to expand Alamo roads to accommodate overflow freeway traffic. Moreover, the county, like any other local government, has no disaster mitigation funds, which come from state and federal governments.
Finally, the county could legally tax only unincorporated areas by vote of unincorporated areas and cities - google Alameda County Measure F.
We must incorporate Alamo to save Alamo!
Jan Bergamini, Alamo
County governance presents dangers
Would any intelligent, successful property owner choose to be governed by a local government with a $1.7 billion unfunded liability for employee benefits? A local government with the power to levy a Utility Users Tax Extension, as Alameda County has done, paid only by property owners in unincorporated areas of the county - specifically Ashland, Castro Valley, Cherryland, Fairview, San Lorenzo and Sunol?
Alamo voters can Google "Alameda County Measure F" (2008) to read about the Utility Users Tax perpetrated by county-wide vote - including votes of citizens of incorporated jurisdictions - solely on property owners of unincorporated Alameda County and not on those of incorporated jurisdictions in the county.
These are some of the dangers of staying unincorporated in this precipitous economic downturn, especially if the governing county - Contra Costa County, in the case of Alamo voters - is in debt by an amount even greater than its annual $1.2 billion budget. In this economy, other Bay Area cities with Alamo's potential property assessed valuations restrained by Proposition 13 aren't clamoring to return to county government. Los Altos, Woodland, Atherton, Hillsborough, Piedmont, Tiburon and Ross - all with small commercial areas - continue to thrive with their healthy property tax revenues. Let Alamo join them!
Jeremy Hallisey, Alamo