The following Public Comment was presented to the Contra
Costa County Board of Supervisors yesterday:
Begging works. Especially if you’re an oil refinery in Contra Costa County. Responding to cries of financial hardship, the County recently created a new tax base for Phillips 66. But no one noticed until a firehouse in Rodeo closed, and its Fire Chief let out a rebel yell.
Accustomed to getting 10% of the County tax for the Rodeo-Hercules Fire District, Chief Charles Hanley suddenly came up short. “By about a million dollars,” he said, remembering the day he had to shutter the little firehouse and say goodbye to 9 firefighters. All agreed the closure was dangerous and ironic. Besides thousands of people, the firehouse also served the refinery. (A FEMA Grant enabled the firehouse to re-open last
year, but only temporarily.)
Enough’s enough. You get the idea. So this week, I met with the Tax Assessor to request more money for both the County and
Fire District. With startling honesty, Gus Kramer explained that P66’s taxes were now based on “profits, not property.” Since the refinery owns 37% of the land in Rodeo, this went far to reduce their tax burden. How far? Kramer couldn’t say off-hand, however, public records show that, in 2014, they paid $3,900 per acre for their main lot. And now they’re paying only $42 per acre. Given this steep drop, the County Board of Supervisors is now feeling the burn.
Yesterday, BOS Chairman John Gioia, confirmed the new profit-sharing” relationship with P66, and referred me back to Kramer “for discussion”. This begs the question: How can the BOS objectively vote on any matter concerning P66 — like the controversial Propane Project which is believed to involve notorious tar sands — if the County has become a “business partner”? Although Phillips ranks #6 on the Fortune 500, the County is now obliged to help them make money. This might explain why Supervisor Glover “lost” his long-time assistant, Paul Adler, who went to work for the refinery this month, in “government affairs”.
Is this tax base legal? Is a for-profit relationship between corporation and County common? Who’s idea was it? Did it require a vote? Whose vote? Does a profit-sharing relationship create conflict-of-interest issues for the BOS? Should the entire Board be required to recuse itself from voting on matters concerning its business partners? Are other refineries in the County also in a profit relationship? Besides firehouses and jobs, what’re taxpayers losing because of these tax reductions? A hospital perhaps?