Moraga is Broke – So What?

Moraga is Broke – So What?

Town's Troubles Don't Affect Its Appeal to Homebuyers

In an ironic twist, the wealthy suburb of Moraga declared a fiscal emergency -- despite being a major player in the East Bay real estate boom. So, what does that mean for homebuyers and sellers?

Not much so far.

The town of 17,000 residents declared the emergency in late June. The budget mess is being blamed largely on the $5 million bill for repairing the crumbling Canyon Road bridge and a giant sinkhole on Rheem Boulevard, both caused by heavy winter storms.

Officials also are blaming California’s Prop. 13, the state law that has limited property taxes and Moraga’s revenue for decades. Moraga’s pricey properties -- a typical house costs $1.2 million -- just don’t translate into big town revenues. Bad news for the town, good for homeowners who benefit greatly from low property taxes.

Town officials are grappling with financial solutions, but say they don’t want to hurt residents or undermine the Moraga lifestyle.

“We’re not willing to hurt the public first," Town Manager Bob Priebe told local media in July. "We’re not going to lay off half of our employees and have the quality of life of all of our citizens really be impacted.”

Moraga Still a Great Investment

As town officials work through the next budget steps, Moraga remains a great investment for East Bay real estate buyers. All the wonderful things that make this quiet region -- named one of America’s Friendliest Towns by Forbes – such a beloved ‘burb are still here, including:

  • Free summer concerts on Thursday nights at Moraga Commons Park. The park also has play structures, a skate park, water play, trailhead, frisbee golf course and bocce ball.
  • Moraga Pear Harvest on the first weekend in August at the orchard next to Joaquin Moraga Middle School.
  • A+ Schools Campolindo High was ranked the 26th best high school in California by U.S. News & World Report. Moraga's elementary schools received API scores above 900. And Moraga is home to St. Mary’s College, named one of the Top 10 Regional Universities in the West by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Moraga Farmer’s Market features more than 40 local farmers and gourmet food stalls every Sunday at the Moraga Center.
  • Redwood Trail Hike from golden rolling hills dotted with oaks to the shade of redwood trees and two undisturbed streams.
  • Captain Vineyards is the first and only green winery in Contra Costa County. Sustainable, dry-farmed and open for tastings by appointment.




What Else You Should Know About Moraga's Budget

Here’s what else you need to know about Moraga’s financial situation:

The town is not bankrupt, but it does receive much lower property tax compared to other communities in the area. The rate was set at 5.27 percent by Moraga’s founders when their town was a young minimalist government. The rate was frozen when Prop. 13 passed nearly four decades ago, according to the town website. By comparision, Orinda gets 7.4 percent, Lafayette 6.3 percent, Concord 10.4 percent, Pittsburg 15.8 percent and El Cerrito 18.8 percent.

By declaring a fiscal emergency, Moraga officials can hold a special election to place a revenue-raising measure on the ballot instead of waiting for the next regularly scheduled election. According to media reports, officials are considering asking voters to approve a flat fee on property or a utility tax. The town plans to poll residents by phone before moving to the ballot.

Officials also are pursuing federal emergency funds to help pay for the bridge and sinkhole.

In the meantime, Moraga’s town council has an $8.5 million balanced budget and cut costs by reducing maintenance, travel, janitorial and contract services, the East Bay Times reported.  And the general fund has about $1.6 million in reserves – not ideal if another infrastructure emergency hits – but better than nothing.

Stay tuned...

Have questions about Moraga and Lamorinda real estate? Call Abio Properties at 888-400-ABIO (2246) or email us at [email protected]. We keep up with East Bay real estate news and are ready to help with lots of experience and advice!