Election 2012: Education wins big

West County voters supported education Tuesday, voting to approve Measures E and G.  Source: Contra Costa Elections Division website

West County voters supported education Tuesday, voting to approve Measures E and G.
Source: Contra Costa Elections Division website

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.”

9 Comments

  1. Roger Fahr

    With Todd Groves and Randy Enos on the board, education sure won big!!! Congratulations.

  2. Sue

    Education didn’t win big because Measure A, which would have helped the Contra Costa Community College District, didn’t pass! Why didn’t you include that in your article? Don’t you care about community colleges?!

  3. There are several levels of social in justice that create this problem. But none are as important as the educational disparity. In 2006, the Alliance for Excellent Education research proved conclusively the link between education and crime. Research indicates that about 75 percent of America’s state prison inmates, almost 59 percent of federal inmates, and 69 percent of jail inmates did not complete high school.

  4. Brian

    We moved to Contra Costa county (WCCC) about 3 years ago from Alameda county. What shocked us since moving her was the high level of taxation. A third of our monthly real estate related payment at the moment goes to the property tax and dozens of special assessments, including school related bonds that started in 1998. The property tax and the special assessments seem endless add up to in the thousands per year. My wife and I always talk the mistake we made by moving to the WCCC.

    • If you’re paying thousands of dollars per year as your part of the bonds and parcel taxes then you’re living in a much better part of West County than I am but that’s my problem and not yours. :-)

      Like you, a very large part of my yearly tax bill goes to paying for the new schools in our District and to pay for some of the amenities like libraries, counselors, arts programs and sports that would have been closed had we the taxpayers not allocated those funds. It’s a tough hit on my meager pension.

      Sadly, when times were good during the ’70’s and ’80’s, we all sat back and banked our money instead of maintaining our school facilities that were nearing the end of their lifespans.

      Then in the ’90’s we were paying the price for being flimflammed by Superintendent Walter Marks when bankrupted the District.

      As citizens, we decided at the ballot box that we were willing to tax ourselves to build our children state of the art facilities. These schools were built to a higher standard than what was required because we knew that these schools would still need to meet the needs of our children beyond today and tomorrow. They need to meet our needs for another half century.

      Common sense should tell us all that when our children are being educated in facilities where there are light in the classrooms, heat in the winter and without the rats running all the the sides of the walls or scurrying through the holes in the walls, that maybe they’re going to be more likely to be interested in getting and education.

      We’re paying the price today (and tomorrow) for the futures of your children.

      You might recall the old TV commercial where the auto mechanic was telling us that “you can pay me now or you can pay me later.” It’s the same here. If we don’t spend the money today to provide our kids with the educations they’ll need for the future, we can pay later with more prisons or social services because our kids won’t have the skills necessary to be competitive in the market place or be able to provide for their families.

      I feel your pain, Brian, and as much as it bites into my meager pension, I understand the need to make this sacrifice.

      By the way, I don’t even have any children so it’s not as thought I’m looking after my own kids.

  5. Tomas

    I cannot believe how naive WCCUSD people are! Have you all seen the scores of the schools in this city? Have you driven by them? More than 1 billion in bonds to one of the lowest performing school districts in Ca- wow!

    I rent and cannot buy due to that-where do you send your kids to middle and then high school-?
    I heard that WCCUSD bond program is the 2nd biggest to LA. if thats true, LAUSD has a million kids- the 2nd largest district in America. We have 30k or so.

    That is alarming! Billions for a crap education!

    • I’m sure, Tomas, that you understand the difference between school bonds and parcel taxes. But for those readers that may not understand, school bonds can only be used for facilities (buildings) and the electorate has voted repeatedly telling the School Board that they want newer and better equipped schools for their children.

      Parcel taxes, on the other hand, can only be used for things such as teachers, pensions, health care for employees as well as sports, arts, music and drama programs. Of course, this list is not all inclusive.

      When the Board has come before the electorate to ask them to pay more money for parcel tax items, the voters have often rejected these requests. These are taxes would have a direct affect on the District’s ability to provide a different (better) educational model within the schools.

      Perhaps there’s something about where parcel tax money will go that the voters are unwilling to embrace.

      There’s such a backlash these days about the pension and H&W programs being provided to public employees that this may be a factor for the parcel taxes being defeated. I don’t know.

  6. Contra Costa County Grand Jury

    Statute grants the Grand Jury with power to investigate and report upon the operations, accounts, and records of our County, cities, and special districts. The Grand Jury has completed an investigation and submitted a report titled:

    Report 1208
    “School Bond Oversight Committees Raising the Bar”

    The report states that “…school districts are required to appoint an independent citizens’ bond oversight committee. These committees are required to actively review the expenditure of bond funds, and to verify that the funds are being spent only for authorized purposes. The legislature has declared its intent that oversight committees shall promptly alert the public to any waste or improper expenditure of bond funds.”

    The report further states that “…these oversight committees also have broad discretionary powers and authority to carry out their responsibilities, and to ensure the prudent and cost-effective expenditure of bond funds.”

    The report includes the following recommendations:

    • “A district should consider ways to recruit independent, qualified and motivated applicants from the community, including announcements in local media, district newsletters, solicitations to local civic and professional groups and mailing postcards to residents to solicit applications when the ballot materials are mailed.”
    • “A district should require all candidates for bond oversight committees to submit written applications listing their background, qualifications, a statement of interest, and disclosure of any prior employment by, or prior involvement or business relationship with, the district.”
    • The district’s annual independent performance audits should be detailed and comprehensive enough in scope, including a review of procurement practices, to allow the committee to identify waste and to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the district’s construction and facilities improvement program.”

    All of the Grand Jury’s reports can be found online at the Superior Court website:

    http://www.cc-courts.org.

    This specific report can be found by using the following link:

    http://www.cc-courts.org/_data/n_0038/resources/live/rpt12081.pdf

    Thank you,

    The Contra Costa Grand Jury

  7. Contra Costa County Grand Jury

    Statute grants the Grand Jury with power to investigate and report upon the operations, accounts, and records of our County, cities, and special districts. The Grand Jury has completed an investigation and submitted a report titled:

    “School Bond Oversight Committees
    Raising the Bar”

    The report states “Although not legally required for parcel taxes, some districts have provided voters with detailed project lists in the ballot materials, and then appointed oversight committees to oversee the district’s use of funds. The Grand Jury commends and endorses this practice as promoting voter transparency and fiscal accountability.”

    All of the Grand Jury’s reports can be found online at the Superior Court website:

    http://www.cc-courts.org.

    This specific report can be found by using the following link:

    http://www.cc-courts.org/_data/n_0038/resources/live/rpt12081.pdf

    Thank you,

    The Contra Costa Grand Jury

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