Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2015  
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  New Consultant Report Confirms School Bond Program is Healthy & Well-Funded
July 12, 2015

Despite the recent gnashing of teeth about financing for the WCCUSD school construction bond program, including whistleblowers and claims of mismanagement, a report commissioned by the school board that will be publicly released July 14, 2015, shows that the significant recovery in property values in West Contra Costa has provides the means to move ahead on reconstruction of Richmond schools, including:

  • Valley View Elementary
  • Fairmont Elementary
  • Stege Elementary
  • Wilson Elementary
  • Highland Elementary
  • Lake Elementary
  • Richmond High School

No longer will the naysayers be able to claim that the school construction program has to come to a grinding halt. They were wrong, and now we can build needed schools for our children in this community

The PowerPoint slide shown below really tells the story.  It shows that the District went from being able to issue 220 Million to 367 Million as bonding capacity.  This means that many more schools can be completed in the next five years.bonding capacity

The WCCUSD has a combined $360 Million left from Measure E( 2010) and Measure D(2012), so the WCCUSD can now utilize and issue all of the remaining bond money in the next five years without constraints.

By moving ahead with three bond sales in the next five years, the WCCUSD can do a lot of projects, including those that critics had said “It would take decades to build”.  The reality is that the WCCUSD can have at least seven or eight Richmond schools built at existing standards within the next six years. It now depends on whether the board has the will to move forward.

Even after Pinole Valley High School is done, the WCCUSD will have at least $300 Million to spend.  

Most of the Richmond schools in the queue have designs completed, and one is already out of DSA. The WCCUSD can include two more schools in 2016 with Pinole Valley High School, three more in 2018 and the final two in 2020.  The District can easily issue $150 Million next year,  $135 million in 2018 and then a final $75 million in 2020. The bonus is that WCCUSD gets to the head of the line for state matching money for seismic projects and bond eligibility money, thus leveraging whatever is spent from bond proceeds. In the past, the WCCUSD has received  over $200 Million that did not come from our local tax payers.

Because of the recent increase in real property assessed valuations, coupled with a state-approved waiver (supported by all our local elected officials in West Contra Costa) which broadens the District's borrowing authority for the next 10 years, as anticipated, The WCCUSD can continue to rebuild our schools at the same pace they have done over the last fifteen years.  The District can continue to issue our bonds at $48 per $100,000 (keeping its promise and not maxing to the state legal limit of $60 per $100,000.)  Additionally, because of this property value increase, the District can issue next year and provide our students long-awaited relief from dilapidated facilities and access to state-of-the-art technology, room for our community service partners and safe and secure play areas.  Therefore, the remaining $360 Million that our community has voted for can all be issued in the next five years.

The District has set a standard of listening to community members, faculty and parents in designing our schools.  This standard has been used since 2000 - beginning with Lavonya DeJean.  The District made the decision to build for the future rather than simply paint over the sins of the past.  The board of the WCCUSD should be  encouraged to appreciate the results of this approach and to continue it.  This approach to building new schools has been supported by all board members who have served since 1998. 

The District's building program is inextricably linked to Chevron.  As the District's largest property owner, Chevron pays 1/6 of the property tax which builds our schools.  Chevron's fire caused the District’s AV to tumble in 2012.  Now, with the rebounding AV, it is time to continue the program with Chevron paying their fair share - and essentially discounting the amount homeowners pay by 16%.

The state is likely to have a $9 Billion ballot measure in November 2016 to provide additional state matching funds for Districts "shovel-ready".  To date, our District has received over $200 Million in state matching funds including: seismic funds, state and federal subsidies on financing of bonds, hardship money and modernization eligibility money.  Should this ballot measure pass, we will continue to aggressively seek these funds to further reduce the costs to the local taxpayer.

The District has followed a long-term vision to rebuild all schools.  It is prudent for us to continue this philosophy.  At the conclusion of this phase of projects, 95% of our schools will be completed.  At that time, the community will have an opportunity to address the last 5% of schools.  We believe this is a smart investment of taxpayer funds.

The door is open to proceed with issuing bonds next year and to continue the program the voters supported at 62% in 2010 and 64% in 2012.  These voters wanted us to build new schools.

This program has had community critics and naysayers (including the Contra County Times) who have been vigilant in their efforts to discredit and defame us.  For the past fifteen years, the WCCUSD has had had performance and fiscal audits (performed by respected auditors who work across the state).  Critics are now questioning the competence of these auditors.  The WCCUSD has always been found to be in compliance with state requirements.  The WCCUSD has offered our community members more input than any other program in the state.  The WCCUSD Bond Oversight Committee meets monthly (when most Oversight Committees meet semi-annually) and has ten subcommittees - unprecedented statewide.   The state mandates five committee members, but WCCUSD has triple that number.  Our community has not been "stymied" in access - access has been nurtured and supported.

This is a great program for Richmond and for West County Maybe supporters are more silent than critics, but they have continually been there at the poll to support our children.  Our latest reassuring AV news confirms our community's trust, and we hope that the new our board remains committed to the previous board’s established vision.