West County voters came out strong for education Tuesday — both on a local and state level.
Both Measure E, the $360 million school bond and Measure G, an extension of the 7.2 cent parcel tax, appear to have passed with all 139 precincts reporting, although there are still some mail-in ballots to be counted.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, California’s Proposition 30, a temporary tax increase that helps fund schools, was also passing with 54 percent of the vote. Prop 30 is estimated to bring in $6 billion per year in revenue through a tax increase for those making more than $250,000 for the next seven years and a quarter cent sales tax increase for four years.
In a very close race for two West Contra Costa Unified School Board seats, Todd Groves and Randy Enos came out on top. Groves, a longtime district volunteer, brought in 29 percent of the vote, and Enos, a 37-year-veteran of the district, brought in 28 percent of the vote. Incumbent board member Antonio Medrano was edged out with 25 percent of the vote, about 2,000 votes shy of Enos. Robert Studdiford, a 12-year district volunteer who has served eight years on the Bond Oversight Committee, received roughly 18 percent of the vote.
All four candidates had agreed in forums on the importance of the two ballot measures and state Prop 30, and Contra Costa voters seemed to agree. Support in Contra Costa County for Prop 30 was about 7 points higher than the state average.
Measure E surpassed the 55 percent approval it needed, garnering 64 percent of vote. Measure G, which needed two-thirds approval by voters, won comfortably with 75 percent.
“We call it the trifecta,” School Board president Charles Ramsey said. “Mission impossible happened.”
Ramsey said the unprecedented support of both a bond and parcel tax on the same ballot showed the community believes in the children in West County as well as the leadership of the district.
Measure E is the sixth bond measure the West Contra Costa Unified School District has asked for since the bond program — a $1.27 billion program that has rebuilt about 50 of the 56 schools in the district —began in 1998.
The district says this last measure will provide the funding to complete one last round of building so that all schools in the district will be complete.
According to the ballot language, the bond will fund improvements, upgrades and rebuilds at Cameron Elementary, Collins Elementary, Crespi Middle School, Grant Elementary, Hercules Middle and High Schools, Kennedy High, Lake Elementary, Madera Elementary, North Campus Continuation School, Portola Playfields, Olinda Elementary, Richmond High, Riverside Elementary, Shannon Elementary and Verde Elementary.
The district estimates that taxpayers will pay $48 per $100,000 of assessed property value, bringing them to some of the highest tax bills for education in the state.
Ramsey said between Prop 30 and the parcel tax, the district saved $22 million in operational funding.
Since its inception in 2004, the parcel tax has allowed the district to hire personnel to “maintain the quality of education.”
Specifically, the money collected is used in six categories:
• Maintain class sizes from kindergarten to third grade
• Purchase textbooks and teaching materials
• Attract and retain qualified teachers, aides and counselors
• Enhance core subjects
• Restore library services and sports programs
• Improve custodial services
For the 2011-2012 fiscal year the district estimates that the parcel tax will generate $9.7 million, money that is used to maintain quality education by hiring people.
In the school board race, all four candidates campaigned with the children of West County as the center of their platforms.
“Each and every one of the folks really cared a lot about kids, making things better for our students, making things more competitive for our students,” Enos said.
Although voting is over, Enos said the election extends over the next four years.
“The real work — of making sure our schools are up to the highest standards— is just beginning.”