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Measure G Won All Across the School District

The Measure G parcel tax for West Contra Costa County schools, unlike most of the past parcel taxes on the ballot in the school district, passed easily on Tuesday, winning support in all seven of the main West County communities.

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."

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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.

Bea Lieberman November 08, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Just a note to let people know that the United Teachers of Richmond also worked incredibly hard to pass these essential measures. We look forward to continue partnering with parents and the entire community in the future. We're thrilled with the results of this election! Voters really came through for the sake of our kids!
Paul November 08, 2012 at 05:40 PM
The community has clearly shown its support for this District - now I think it is time for the District to demonstrate that it can provide an excellent education for the kids. The parents need to be involved at home, but the District needs to get its act together too - both the administration and the teacher's union. They should brainstorm ways to improve performance for ALL kids, because what they have now is mediocre at best. I think one of the big issues is "expectations" - there seems to be a broad acceptance of "good enough" - once a child is "proficient" that's good enough - among teachers and administrators. Maybe it's because our district has been on life support for so long that we haven't had the energy or resources to reach beyond proficiency (and we aren't even succeeding at that). We should be striving for excellence - providing the tools our kids need to be all they can be, whether that be a tradesperson or a brain surgeon. We've got all kinds of kids and we need to help them all to be their best and not just accept "proficiency."
Janice Williams November 08, 2012 at 05:44 PM
I have to disagree with Mr. Ramsey, I don't think the voters realize the extent to which these bonds will raiser property taxes over time. West Contra Costa has less affluence than some of the counties east of us (see Charley Cowens link), yet we are paying much more in property taxes than school districts in San Ramon, Orinda, etc. I really don't understand why West Contra Costra property owners are being singled out like this. Perhaps someone can explain?
Kathy A. November 08, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Yay, teachers! Paul, I think most residents agree about providing an excellent education for *all* kids -- that is what this election suggests. And, that our district needs to do more, in a variety of ways. Janice, I don't know all the information about your question, but think part of the problem goes back to prop. 13. Lamorinda has higher property values, and the people who live there can afford a lot more in the way of donations and fees for things needed by the schools and students. I wish there was more equity amongst school districts, in terms of funding needs. But to me, the kids in my school district are my neighbors and our collective future, and it is worth the investment to help every kid be her/his best.
Charles Burress (Editor) November 08, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Yes, thanks for adding that info. Here's one example: http://patch.com/A-yRLh.
Michael O'Connor November 08, 2012 at 10:17 PM
West Cpunty residents allowed the schools to crumble for decades. The lack of maintenance combined with the inevitable Hayward Fault earthquake forced the hand of the WCCUSD. Berkeley has also spent hundreds of millions to upgrade and modernize their facilities. Albany has rebuilt all of its schools. Oakland has work to do. In your next life, don't buy a home near the most dangerous fault in North America.
Giorgio C. November 12, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Has the WCCUSD been experiencing a financial crisis or not? During the financial crisis, most government agencies have eliminated or limited travel for employees. With the use of webinars and teleconferences, travel has become less necessary. So how come I am always reading about WCCUSD board members attending conferences? In this recent example, there are two meetings. The first is in San Francisco. Ok, I believe we should take advantage of attending meetings whenever they are held locally. The only cost incurred will be that of meeting registration and mileage expenses. The second meeting is being held in New York City. And it is recommend that this trip be approved. I can barely get some board members to visit Hercules, but we are going to pay them to fly and stay in New York? When I have the time, I will tally up all of the 2012 travel that you and I paid for. Item C.25 http://www.wccusd.net/cms/lib03/CA01001466/Centricity/domain/16/agenda/2012-2013/20121114_BOE_Agenda.pdf Add this to the fact that our district is also still paying 10 teachers per year to take year-long sabbaticals, with them receiving full benefits and 1/2 their salary. Seriously? To the board, I remind them that we are in a recession. Please conduct yourselves accordingly.
Contra Costa County Grand Jury November 16, 2012 at 01:00 AM
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 “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: 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
Giorgio C. December 01, 2012 at 01:59 PM
State Treasurer Bill Lockyer blasts WCCUSD for their choice to use Capital Appreciation Bonds (CABs) for funding school construction, saying "They are terrible deals," Lockyer said. "The school boards and staffs that approved of these bonds should be voted out of office and fired." The Contra Costa Times further reports: West Contra Costa: The district issued a $2.5 million CAB in 2010 to raise the money to issue a $25 million federally subsidized bond. The $2.5 million CAB requires $33.8 million total to pay off. "If we didn't issue the $2.5 million in CABs," said school board President Charles Ramsey, "we wouldn't have gotten the $25 million to build the school for 1 percent interest, so we felt that was the responsible thing to do." If Treasurer Lockyer is correct, then where is the oversight that should have prevented taxpayers from being persuaded to support such funding measures? Why are we having this discussion after the fact? CC Times report here http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_22093543/dozens-bay-area-districts-have-used-risky-and

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