Following the defeat of Measure K, the schools parcel tax, school board President Charles Ramsey said Wednesday it's time to consider whether two cities where support wasn't strong – Hercules and Pinole – should be separated from the West Contra Costa school district.
Ramsey acknowledged that the failure of Measure K could affect class size, but he said the financial impact will be buffered by the continuation of the existing parcel tax for schools and . Of more important concern, he said, is the district's composition regarding Pinole and Hercules.
"The bigger issue is: Is it time for Hercules and Pinole to form their own district?" he said. "I believe it's time to have that conversation."
He pointed to the lower rate of support in those two cities for Measure K. The measure failed to achieve the two-thirds yes vote needed to pass, receiving 64.59 percent of 30,559 votes cast in for all jurisdictions. A large number of ballots have yet to be counted, but they are not expected to alter the defeat.
El Cerrito led west county cities in the percent who voted yes, with 71.57 percent, followed by Richmond with 66.06 percent and San Pablo with 65.21 percent, according to a Patch tabulation of precinct-by-precinct results provided by the Contra Costa County Elections Division. Unincorporated Kensington registered 81.73 approval.
The lowest support was seen in Hercules where 54.15 percent voted yes, while Pinole turned in 57.99 percent approval.
Ramsey also said that neither city council in Pinole or Hercules endorsed the measure, and that only one council member in the two cities – Pete Murray of Pinole – supported it.
The El Cerrito City Council endorsed Measure K on April 17, and several council members from El Cerrito, Richmond and San Pablo signed on as individual endorsers.
Ramsey also cited the attempt by Hercules in 2005 – led by Sue Pricco of that city – to secede from the West Contra Costa Unified School District and join the neighboring John Swett district. He noted also that Pricco signed the ballot argument against Measure K.
"It's apparent to me that they aren't supportive of the district," Ramsey said of Hercules and Pinole.
If the votes from Pinole and Hercules were substracted from the total reported in semi-official results, a Patch calculation shows the approval rate for Measure K would rise to 66.61 percent, close enough to victory that the addition of yet uncounted votes might push it over the line.
Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder Steve Weir said a sizable number of ballots remain to be counted countywide: including 28,229 vote-by-mail ballots and 3,622 provisional ballots whose validity needs to be verified. The semi-official results show 160,108 cast in the county as a whole, for a voter turnout of 30.78 percent.
Weir said he doesn't have a count of how many uncounted ballots there are in the area where votes were cast for Measure K, but he said he doesn't consider the election close and wouldn't expect the remaining ballots to affect the outcome.
The Measure K election took place in 117 of the county's 646 precincts.
Weir said there's no reason to believe that the remaining ballots would contain a large enough preponderance of yes votes to make a difference.
"It's very unlikely that there are enough votes out there to overcome the deficit," he said. He said the elections division hopes to release the remaining vote-by-mail ballot results on Friday.
Measure K would have raised the current parcel tax of 7.2 cents per square foot of building area to 10.2 cents a square foot. It would also have extended the tax to June 30, 2017. The current levy expires June 30, 2014.
The school board placed the measure on the ballot in part to reduce class sizes in high school and middle school and maintain lower class sizes in grades K-2.
Ramsey said school athletics, counselors and librarians will not be affected because of the existing parcel tax will continue and also because the district is now free of $1.4 million in annual debt payments with the end of the 21-year state loan.
Some supporters of Measure K have suggested placing it on the ballot again in November, saying it will have a better chance of passage then because of the traditionally higher voter turnout in a Presidential election.
Ramsey said that decision is up to the board but that he's not optimistic about the prospect, noting that an earlier parcel tax measure for West Contra Costa schools on the November 2010 ballot received only 59.36 percent approval when the turnout was 66.07 percent.
The deadline for submitting a measure for the November ballot is Aug. 10.