WCC School Board to Discuss Bond Sales

West Contra Costa Unified School District trustees will examine district bonds from 1998 to present at their Wednesday night meeting.

The bonds the West Contra Costa Unified School District has purchased the past 15 years will be the main topic of discussion at a board meeting on Wednesday night.

The district's Board of Education will gather at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Lovonya DeJean Middle School, 3400 Macdonald Ave. in Richmond.

The main item on the agenda is a discussion by the board of the various school bond sales the district has engaged in since 1998 to rebuild school facilities.

The discussion will range from qualified school construction bonds to the capital appreciation bonds that were detailed two weeks ago in a story on El Cerrito Patch.

The board will also discuss whether to hire a full-time construction architect for the Portola Middle School construction project. The Measure J bond project is currently in the bid process.

The funding for the architect would not exceed $75,000. It would be paid for with 2010 Measure D bond money.

evilincarKnit February 13, 2013 at 02:27 AM
I encourage the board to hire a full time CA to shepherd this project through to a timely completion. As a neighbor of ECHS, I appreciate that having a CA helped to complete that project NINE months early. I can only imagine that the Castro/Portola neighbors want and deserve the same consideration. And as a parent of a 4th grader, I know that a full-time CA will enable all our children to start middle school in the fantastically designed building that we have been waiting on for years.
Giorgio C. February 13, 2013 at 02:18 PM
At last night's Hercules City Council meeting, as the council prepared to vote on the WCCUSD bond debt limit waiver, I voiced my concerns about some of the bond oversight committee protocol and also the failings of the state with respect to oversight of school bond programs. My concerns included the composition of the committee and some of the conflict-of-interest scenarios. President Kronenberg then told the city council that no one has ever complained about this CBOC before. I thought others had, that I wasn't alone with my concerns. Her comment cast me in a rather unflattering light, that I was the lone critic. I want to make it clear that I support building schools and I support the WCCUSD, but I am a stickler for protocol, especially the Ed Code. As I also pointed out at the meeting, I believe two of the CBOC positions are in violation of the Ed Code. As I said last night, let the voters have their bond measure, but also remember that the voters expect a bond program that is LEGAL and FUCNTIONAL. All I request is that with respect to protocol, we tidy things up a bit. I apologize if I made President Kronenberg or Mr. Ramsey uncomfortable in any way last night, but I had to speak my mind. Hercules and the WCCUSD are forming a positive relationship. Good things are going to keep happening in our Hercules schools. I will do my best to be part of the quality improvement process in a manner that is as respectful as possible.
Valerie Snider February 13, 2013 at 03:50 PM
The fact that Kronenberg's response to your concern was, "Nobody has ever complained before" reveals a lot about her "leadership" ability. First of all, it's not true. Second, it shows she is too personally invested in the bond program to be objective about violations of protocol (or the law).
Charles Cowens February 13, 2013 at 11:16 PM
I don't understand why the sweeping statement. Why not just say "rarely" or "very few." Is it just that those who criticize any aspect of the WCCUSD bond construction empire are simply not really people in her or Ramsey's mind? Thus, by definition, the sweeping statement must be true.
Paul February 13, 2013 at 11:48 PM
Giorgio - It shouldn't matter whether or not anyone complained before - that doesn't make your complaint any more or less valid. You have the right to make a statement and for it to be considered on its own merits - regardless of whether or not others have said it before. I am familiar with the subject of your complaint regarding trade unions, etc. I don't think it's illegal so long as the individual representative on the CBOC is not an employee, consultant, vendor, or contractor with the District. Similarly, I don't think it's illegal for each Board member to have an appointee on the CBOC, but I don't think it's necessarily a good thing either. The membership structure of the CBOC should be open to discussion (and criticism), but using the term "illegal" may be unfounded and likely to result in defensive responses. I haven't observed any "suspect" actions by CBOC members where they appeared to be protecting their special interests. I think the most important thing is for CBOC members to be honestly engaged in the process with a critical eye, and I think they generally are.
Charles Cowens February 13, 2013 at 11:54 PM
As far as the meeting goes, the agenda lists the Portola item as a consent item, so theoretically there should be no discussion of the Portola item, just approval. That would be better, so the Board can hopefully focus on discussing the history of bond issuance. It's possible an item might be pulled to stage some kind of dog-and-pony thing to highlight the significance of some aspect(s) of the bond program (like at the July 2012 special meeting). Hopefully, not. A few things about the meeting: 1. Special meetings are usually not televised, but they are taped (analog though). I plan on getting a copy and converting them to digital audio files. 2. There is no actual backup in the online packet for the main item to help people prepare questions. Here are the three bond-related items provided to CCTimes columnist Dan Borenstein by WCCUSD before the last election: http://www.scribd.com/doc/109447172/WCCUSD-History-of-Bond-Authorizations http://www.scribd.com/doc/109447178/WCCUSD-Debt-Service-and-Tax-Rate-Projections http://www.scribd.com/doc/109447175/WCCUSD-History-of-Assessed-Valuations-and-Bond-Tax-Rates Here is a copy of a WCCUSD Friday Memo that includes a history of bond issuances as of August last year and a statement of the underlying philosophy of the bond program: http://www.scribd.com/doc/109445870/WCCUSD-Friday-Memo-from-081712-Discussing-CABs-for-Bond-Program
Paul February 14, 2013 at 12:14 AM
If something gets pulled from the consent calendar it's because somebody feels the item needs to be discussed, not necessarily because it's a "dog-and-pony" show. If there is a disagreement on an issue it is better to discuss it than to silence the dissent by putting it on the consent calendar (where there is no public discussion).
Giorgio C. February 14, 2013 at 02:28 AM
Paul, By definition, a union rep is representing an employee. That is their sole purpose. That is the same as having an employee from the district on the committee. First it's the small print in the ballot language. Then it is the slippery CBOC position language. Why does it have to be this way? Why?
Giorgio C. February 14, 2013 at 03:57 PM
At last night's meeting, someone broke my windshield. There was no security seen at the meeting. As I exited at 10 pm while the meeting was still in progress, I was alone on this street as I walked to my car. My car was parked in the lot often used for these meetings. It wasn't a break-in. I didn't see other vandalized cars next to mine. I had even parked under the light. I can deal with property damage, but what if a person was attacked on this street after leaving this meeting that the WCCUSD invited us to attend?
Valerie Snider February 14, 2013 at 04:20 PM
Every time I've attended a meeting a security guard has been present. I wonder why it was your car that was selected for vandalism.
Ira Sharenow February 14, 2013 at 07:57 PM
What I find interesting is the apparent passivity of the teachers’ union. WCCUSD teachers receive far less compensation than their neighbors in Albany and elsewhere, yet apparently they seem to be willing to endorse bond measures that spend yet more on construction. I was under the impression that the Bay Area is one of the most politically active areas of the country. I know that the Albany Teachers Union has been very active and I am under the impression the state teachers union is a powerhouse, but for some reason WCCUSD teachers quietly accept below average compensation. Does anyone understand the phenomenon? WCCUSD $55,377 + $15,924 Albany: $62,305 + $24,131 The numbers are for BA+60 salary and family plan health insurance http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/App_Resx/EdDataClassic/fsTwoPanel.aspx?#!bottom=/_layouts/EdDataClassic/fiscal/TeacherSalary.asp?reportNumber=4096&level=06&fyr=1112&county=07&district=61796#teachersalaryschedule-annualsalary http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/App_Resx/EdDataClassic/fsTwoPanel.aspx?#!bottom=/_layouts/EdDataClassic/fiscal/TeacherSalary.asp?tab=0&level=06&ReportNumber=4096&County=1&fyr=1112&District=61127
Giorgio C. February 15, 2013 at 04:08 AM
Putting aside my car issue, this meeting was of value. I'm glad I went. I learned a lot and also learned I had much more to learn. The format was done in a manner that taught the viewer the relevant concepts pertaining to bond funding of our school district. I have my concerns about the WCCUSD bond program (and the district as a whole) with respect to protocol, but I'll give credit where due. I expected a dog and pony show, but instead, witnessed the district staff responding directly to all criticism thrown their way. How about a rebuttal from those critics who are knowledgable of these matters, published in a letter to the Patch? I have nothing to offer to the dialogue as I am much too ignorant. I'll continue to take notes and learn something.
Paul February 15, 2013 at 04:45 AM
Giorgio - I too found the meeting to be immensely valuable and educational. I believe the Board is being transparent and is asking good questions. The facts as presented last night are this: In the late 1990s, after decades of neglect and deferred maintenance, the District found itself in a huge hole. It's buildings were nearly at or beyond their useful service lives and maintenance costs were becoming excessive. Infrastructure funding was no longer coming from the state, but was expected to be provided locally. At that time the District began its bond program to rebuild schools. This was necessary, there really weren't any options. The District's bond program has grown to over a billion dollars - it is BIG, no doubt. But those bonds are providing modernization or total rebuilding of nearly all of the District's schools. This is a VERY GOOD thing. I haven't seen evidence of wasteful spending. Sure, in hindsight there's always something that could have been done differently, but overall I think it's been money well spent. I think the issue of the CABs has been distorted in the media. CABs are a very small part of the District's overall program, and they were utilized in limited situations, in one case because they provided the District with an opportunity to take advantage of steeply discounted federal loans. Yes, CABs are complicated, but if you really take the time to understand how the District has used them, it isn't at all like it's been portrayed in the news.
Paul February 15, 2013 at 04:59 AM
My primary concern is that the Board and the public understand how these obligations will play out over time. The presentations last night assumed 4% annual growth in assessed property values. At those levels it looks like we'll be ok - property taxes will stay within the desired bounds and the debts will be paid off... but 4% growth may be too optimistic - we're looking into a crystal ball that isn't perfect. Todd Groves asked what would happen if growth stayed flat - and that is a very good question. Even more appropriate perhaps is to simply consider what would happen at 2% growth. What does the repayment look like then? How will 2% growth affect the issuance of additional bonds and how will it affect the payments 10 and 20 years down the road? What strategies will be available to the District to repay the bonds if the 4% growth doesn't happen? Both the Board and the public need to be aware of these things. Most people also think of bonds as being similar to a mortgage where the payments stay flat over the life of the mortgage. The early bonds were like that - they are called "level debt service". But most of the program is now under a "deferred debt service" which means that the payments escalate with time. The hope/expectation is that real estate values will increase at the same rate (or more) as the escalating payments so that the "tax rate" can remain the same (at $X/$100,000, every time the value of the property goes up the tax due goes up as well).
Paul February 15, 2013 at 05:18 AM
Deferred debt service isn't "bad" - it's just a tool to get more cash into the Districts' hands now so that they can complete the necessary building program now. It is leveraging expected future growth to pay for today's needs, and that's what is somewhat risky... it's risky in that if the growth doesn't occur, the tax rate will need to increase. Personally, I tend to be conservative and I would prefer that bonds be more of a "level debt service" type because that locks us into today's payments and there are no escalations. But in order to have the same building program we have now using level debt service, we would need to be paying significantly higher taxes today. It's a tradeoff - and I think that's what people, including the Board, need to understand. I don't think there's anything hidden or malicious - but it is complex and the Board and the public should strive to understand it so that there aren't any surprises in 20 years. Back to Todd Groves' question - I think staff and KNN should present a 2% growth scenario - what would that look like? How far behind would the District get? How could the lost revenue be made up? Would it require extending the repayments further out in time? This is just to know what could happen - hopefully it won't - but the Board should consider the possibility.
Ira Sharenow February 15, 2013 at 05:50 AM
Was this meeting on the web? Will it be on the web? I didn’t see it advertised as being live on the web, so I question the openness. I have not studied the district’s bond financing, but I do know that enrollment at WCCUSD is down quite sharply. Have building plans taken into account the drop in enrollment? What are future enrollment projection? In 2011/12, enrollment = 29,883 In 2001/02, enrollment = 34,940 Given its current compensation package, is the district able to attract and retain the highest quality instructional staff? Was there any comment about the appropriateness of large campaign contributions by those who have contracts with the district? A very large number of WCCUSD district residents are not going to WCCUSD, so it seems as though district residents are voting with their feet. They are not satisfied with the current strategy. Was there any mention of the overall financial health of the district? In detail, how much does the district owe for future pension and health insurance costs? What are the assumptions? I think the board needs to give a clear explanation of its finances in terms the average voter/taxpayer can understand.
Ira Sharenow February 15, 2013 at 05:54 AM
Here is part of an interesting comment on the Whole Foods story. Based on working with a lot people who buy and sell homes in the East Bay, THE primary draw for people moving to Albany is the schools. … Please, please don't let that happen. Just ask people in Oakland, El Cerrito, Kensington, or San Francisco about the value of strong neighborhood schools -- a LOT of them are shelling out big bucks for private school, and their property values suffer the consequences. http://albany.patch.com/articles/whole-foods-to-open-new-store-at-10th-and-gilman#comments
Charles Cowens February 15, 2013 at 07:04 AM
@Ira I tried to post this earlier, but it didn't seem to stick. Yes, the meeting was actually televised. It took an hour and ten minutes to get to the point of the meeting. Then it goes on for about three hours. Here's the link to the video archive: http://richmond.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=15 Hats off to KCRT for maintaining this archive.
Ira Sharenow February 15, 2013 at 07:12 AM
Interesting web page Invoices Paid to Contractors Please click on the date below to find out what contractors were paid. Check release is every Wednesday of that week. (Date will vary depending on holidays) http://www.wccusdbondprogram.com/index.php?name=Content&pid=28 Interestingly the amounts and the descriptions were missing! I also looked at some project descriptions. At least on the page I looked at, it appears as though no projects are being completed on time. What happens when a contractor misses a promised deadline?
Ira Sharenow February 15, 2013 at 07:52 AM
Charles, thanks. Much appreciated. There appears to be a lot of quality information. I only watched a bit so far. However, the presentation was very low tech compared to what I am accustomed and I did not see any accompanying slides or Excel spreadsheets. For the time I watched there was no executive summary type of presentation, so there was a lot of information but little in the way of insight. For someone with limited time, how can someone truly understand what has happened and what future plans are? Why does this district apparently borrow so much more than other other districts? I am trying to understand the 4% growth rate assumption because the main speaker said that property values had gone down.
Giorgio C. February 15, 2013 at 01:21 PM
Trustee Tod Groves asked KNN Consultant Dave Olson about the perfect storm scenario. I think Dave misunderstood Todd's question as he replied that he "didn't have the numbers with him." I thought Todd was asking from a conceptual standpoint for purpose of helping us understand all relevant factors. Or at least that was what I wanted to hear from Dave. What elements contribute to a bond-program perfect storm calamity and what is the probability-liklihood of occurrence for each element and what are we doing to protect ourselves from each element?
Valerie Snider February 15, 2013 at 05:10 PM
Taxpayers should be given a schedule showing how much an average homeowner might expect to pay over the life of all of the bonds, year by year (with assumptions disclosed). A picture (or in this case, a graph) is worth a thousand words. As far as I know this information has never been provided. Given the cozy relationships between Ramsey, Kronenberg, the unions, the contractors, and the finance people; the huge amount of debt ( >$3 billion dollars with interest, more than any other district); and the contract with the Seville Group (implicated in wrong-doing in another school district) why is anyone surprised that so many are skeptical about how the bond program is being run?
Valerie Snider February 15, 2013 at 05:12 PM
The amount one is willing to pay for something is related to how much value they perceive they’re receiving. In the case of the school district, we pay a lot for buildings, but our teachers are underpaid, classes are crowded, and the academic outcomes are poor. I attended a soccer game at San Ramon Valley HS. Over 60% of freshmen at the school score in the advanced category on the STAR test. But their campus is very basic – almost plain.
Ira Sharenow February 15, 2013 at 06:15 PM
When I watched I did NOT get the sense the purpose of the presentation was to inform and give insight to the average paying customer who is not an expert in public finance. The speakers I heard went on for a long time but did not seem focused on their non-expert web audience. They had lots of data, which was not easy to verify or to track (no online slides, no Excel spreadsheets). We have a district with a huge bond debt and very low teacher compensation and very poor student performance. Large numbers of El Cerrito students may go to the local elementary school and then go elsewhere for high school (district has declined to produce data). The district has declined to produce data with respect to student crime in El Cerrito. This district is not working out. El Cerrito students are losing out and property values are low. Why do the proponents of the current policy think they have taken the best course for the communities? There is a need for a group of concerned community members to form an alternative to the current board. They would need people who would be effective candidates and people who know how to run campaigns. One proposal might be that El Cerrito leaves the district. The district is too heterogeneous to be successful. Right now the main focus of the district is construction. I want very strong programs for the most gifted. Does this large district have a magnate school which admits students on merit and which then cultivates high performance?
Giorgio C. February 15, 2013 at 07:12 PM
Ira, You are dead on. The wccusd teacher and principal turnover is robbing our kids of a real education. The board did a terrible job in defining the need for the parcel tax increase aka measure k. The superintendent sugar coats a bit too much for purpose of buy in. Only those who do their homework such as yourself understand how dire the situation is. Going for a bond measure further undermined the justification for the parcel tax increase.
Ira Sharenow February 16, 2013 at 09:20 AM
I decided to take a look at the bond documents in order to see how property values have been changing. From 2002/03 to 2011/12 the growth was 3.6%. From 2008/09 to 2011/12 the growth was -6.4%. Lost value. From 2010/11 to 2011/12 the growth was 1.1%. 2002/03 $16,158,323,943 2008/09 $27,062,460,076 2010/11 $21,927,157,161 2011/12 $22,170,563,072 This is the growth in debt service over the next five years. 2012 $51,486,164 2017 $63,727,504 The growth in debt service is 4.4%. Tax as a percentage of assessed valuation for WCCUSD 2007/08 . 1035 2011/12 .2322 It is also worth noting that Chevron is a very significant taxpayer. It has had several lawsuits relating to valuation. I do not know how those lawsuits impact WCCUSD. ADA 2002/03 32,390 2011/12 27,498 That represents a 1.8% per year decline in ADA. http://emma.msrb.org/ER603268-ER468828-ER871816.pdf
Ira Sharenow February 17, 2013 at 07:17 PM
Last evening I spent quite a bit of time researching information so that I could post a note. But the note has disappeared. It was mostly data from public sites. There are so many Albany comments on the main page I have trouble finding El Cerrito comments and there are so many stories that do not really pertain to El Cerrito, it can be tough to find very many that do. Clearly Patch is no longer aiming for hyper local news. Can a Patch editor please state what its model is supposed to be? From what I can tell, Patch posts local, regional, state, national, and international stories -- overwhelmingly not researched by a local Patch editor -- and then Patch hopes a discussion will ensue even though Patch often delays the posting of comments.
Ira Sharenow February 17, 2013 at 07:25 PM
On a per student basis, WCCUSD has much more than double the construction bond debt service of Albany. WCCUSD has declining enrollment; Albany has stable enrollment. WCCUSD declining tax base; Albany stable even though construction projects are often blocked. Albany has much higher teacher compensation and student performance. Enrollment WCCUSD Albany Alb/WCCUSD 2002/03 34,940 3,145 9.0% 2008/09 30,767 3,838 12.5% 2011/12 29,883 3,803 12.7% Debt Service WCCUSD Albany Alb/WCCUSD 2012 $51,486,164 $2,702,056 5.2% 2017 $63,727,504 $4,009,891 6.3% 2022 $68,261,779 $3,117,526 4.6% Debt Serv per Student 2012 $1,723 $711 41.2% Property Values WCCUSD Albany Alb/WCCUSD 2002/03 $16,158,323,943 $1,173,081,350 7.3% 2008/09 $27,062,460,076 $1,829,781,372 6.8% 2011/12 $22,170,563,072 $1,917,630,309 8.6% Property Val/student WCCUSD Albany Alb/WCCUSD 2002/03 $462,459 $372,999 80.7% 2008/09 $879,594 $476,754 54.2% 2011/12 $741,912 $504,241 68.0% BA+60 Teacher Pay WCCUSD Albany Alb/WCCUSD 2002/03 $49,513 $53,762 108.6% 2008/09 $56,915 $62,305 109.5% 2011/12 $55,377 $62,305 112.5% Family Plan Ins WCCUSD Albany Alb/WCCUSD 2002/03 $8,338 $12,849 154.1% 2008/09 $15,859 $19,399 122.3% 2011/12 $15,924 $24,131 151.5%
Giorgio C. February 18, 2013 at 06:20 PM
The issue of attendance areas came up, raised by Mr. Medrano. If these periodically change, then this means a parent can currently be supporting a local school (volunteering, donations) in anticipation that their child will be attending that school, only to discover at a later date that their child is to be enrolled elsewhere. Parents-communities should be encouraged to take ownership of their local school, but I can now see why some might choose to wait until their child is actually enrolled before offering any support. Has anyone had any experiences with the changing attendance areas?
Ira Sharenow March 01, 2013 at 12:29 AM
I just attempted to upload the slides from the presentation. I was unsuccessful. I received the slides from Debbie Haynie, Executive Secretary to the Superintendent. Some of the more controversial statements were as follows. slide 49 2002 Measure D Future Tax Rates Absent strong tax base recovery or corrective action by the District, tax rates could increase beyond targeted maximums. slide 52 2005 Measure J Future Tax Rates Absent continued strong tax base recovery or corrective action by the District, 2005 Measure J tax rates could increase beyond targeted maximums.


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