To the joy of many parents, teachers and school officials, the Measure G parcel tax on Tuesday's ballot for West Contra Costa schools easily surpassed the two-thirds vote needed, with a 74.65 percent yes vote in semi-official results.
The result was especially welcome by its supporters given the district's past voting record on parcel taxes.
Before Tuesday, the last time a West County schools parcel tax went before the voters – Measure K this past June – it was rejected, albeit by a narrow margin with a 65.5 percent yes vote.
Measure K received two-thirds approval in only three of the seven main communities in the district – El Cerrito, Kensington and Richmond (and just barely in Richmond). It didn't reach two-thirds in Hercules, Pinole, San Pablo or El Sobrante.
One likely reason for Measure K's failure was that it would have boosted the current parcel tax to 10.2 cents per square foot of building area from the existing 7.2 cents. Measure G extends the existing 7.2 percent for an additional five years until 2019.
But the amount of the tax was probably not the sole important factor. The parcel tax on the ballot before Measure K, in November 2010, was 7.2 cents, and it lost, with a 59.4 percent yes vote.
In fact, before Tuesday, voters had rejected six of the eight parcel taxes on previous ballots for West County schools since 1988.
And if precedent alone weren't a hurdle, Measure G faced another problem: another property-tax measure on the same ballot for West County schools, Measure E, a construction bond measure. (It needed 55 percent approval, and it too also passed by a wide margin, with a 63.48 percent yes vote.)
Yet, Measure G not only passed with a large margin, it did so in all seven of the main communities in the district.
Approval rates compiled by Patch from semi-official results:El Cerrito 78.4% El Sobrante 67.7% Hercules 68.3% Kensington 84.4% Pinole 68.4% Richmond 76.2% San Pablo 78.2%
"Every single city had over two-thirds on the parcel tax," said school board President Charles Ramsey, who had worked hard to win support in the communities that rejected Measure K.
Immediately after Measure K's defeat, Ramsey created a stir when he asked whether Hercules and Pinole should be in a different district, but once the school board voted in July to put a new parcel on the Nov. 6 ballot, he made a concerted effort in those communities to win support. He noted that the victory party was held in Pinole Tuesday night.
At the same time, some PTA and grassroots groups formed to campaign for the measure. In Kensington, which had the highest approval rate in the county – 84.4 percent – parents and kids were seen on the township's main thoroughfare, Arlington Avenue, on election day holding Measure G signs up to passing cars, a sight that a neighbor across the street said he'd never seen in his 30 years in the community.
"It's attributable to the fact that the community has a passion for education," said Ramsey, "that the community has a passion to make sure every child has an opportunity to learn. ... We tapped into that."
Without the $10 million raised by Measure G, Ramsey said, the district would have lost funding for 150 teaching positions, librarians, athletics and key components of core academic programs.
"I am absolutely thrilled and grateful that Measures E and G have passed," said Romy Douglass, PTA president at Kensington Hilltop Elementary School.
"To me, the reasons are many," she said via email in response to a request for comment from Patch. "Charles Ramsey provided excellent support and leadership for parents looking to be involved, the folks in Pinole and Hercules liked the way this legislation was crafted and they have a significant voice and investment in the positive outcome. Parents from Kensington Elementary partnered with parents from Shannon Elementary (in Pinole), Portola families were involved, it was just a huge outpouring of the heart and soul of our whole community to take a stand for our children and their future."
Another measure of West County voters' extraordinary commitment to education is that fact that Tuesday's approval of Measure E means that the West Contra Costa Unified School District now has six bond measures that have been approved, a number unsurpassed by any other district, according to Ramsey. San Francisco also has six bond measures that have been approved.
Measure E will add an estimated $48 per $100,000 in net assessed valuation on property tax bills, which comes on top of cumulative total of $215.70 in property tax per $100,000 of assessed valuation from the past five West County school bond measures.
The amount of property tax paid by West County citizens for school bonds is already far higher than the average $78.74 for the 16 school districts in Contra Costa County, according to a comparative analysis by West County parent volunteer Charley Cowens posted on his education blog.
Asked if voters may not have aware that they were approving increases property taxes when they voted for Measure E (the ballot language did not mention that it would increase property taxes, Ramsey said, "The voters knew what they were voting for."
He noted that the Contra Costa Times, while endorsing Measure G, had urged a no vote on Measure E, arguing that West County citizens were already paying a large amount of property tax for school bonds.
"Voters are knowledgeable," he said. "I know there's a core value in this community around education."
You can find local election results here, and the results for how California voted on national and state issues, including state legislators and ballot propositions, on here.