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Measure M: More money for schools?

on October 29, 2010

Contra Costa County voters will decide whether to increase property taxes to help pay for schools for the second time this year.

Measure M is a proposed parcel tax on the November ballot backed by the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD). If the measure passes, it would charge 7.2 cents per square foot of building space annually for five years. For the owner of a 1,500-square-foot home, that roughly translates into an additional $110 per year. Seniors would be exempt.

According to WCCUSD Superintendent Bruce Harter, tax revenue from Measure M would amount to $9.7 million per year—money he says the district can no longer depend on the state to supply.

“When the federal stimulus funding goes away at the end of this school year, the Board will be forced to make deeper budget reductions in our schools,” Harter wrote in a statement posted on the WCCUSD homepage.

Arthur Hatchett, director of the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP) has endorsed Measure M. Supporters like Hatchett say Measure M is needed to prevent further cuts to staff and services, maintain class sizes, and guarantee a local source of funding that the state can’t touch.

If passed, Measure M would fund academic programs. Measure D, which passed in June, pays for school renovations.

Measure M comes on the heels of Measure D, a $380-million school bond measure that narrowly passed in June. The money from Measure D is paying for seismic and technology upgrades.

“Measure D doesn’t provide funding for the classes and for the teachers and for the curriculum and other things that are needed,” Hatchett said. “There’s just no other remedy at this point that we know of except to tax ourselves.”

Opponents of Measure M, like Susan Pricco of Hercules, disagree. The former chair of the WCCUSD Citizens Bond Oversight Committee says the district should downsize its facilities instead of seeking revenue.

“People are struggling to make ends meet and they’re not getting their money’s worth out of education in West County as it is,” Pricco said. “This is not the time to be asking for more money.”

Kenneth Hambrick, a Walnut Creek resident who heads the Alliance of Contra Costa Taxpayers, says the bonds and parcel taxes that West County residents are already paying for are enough.

“People in West County are the most overtaxed people in Contra Costa County in that school district area,” Hambrick said. “I really feel sorry for the kids over there and I just hope those people get their act together on the financial management side.”

Measure M requires the approval of two thirds of voters to pass.  If that happens, it would become the sixth school-related bond measure West County voters have passed in 12 years.

Kenneth Hambrick

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