RICHMOND -- Financial advisers presenting a plan to allow the West Contra Costa school district to continue building and upgrading schools encountered hostile resistance from many members of the district's bond oversight committee Wednesday. Committee member Tom Waller said he felt "mad as hell" after the presentation, which district staff placed on the agenda without Chairwoman Ivette Ricco's approval. After first insisting that district staff has no right to alter the independent committee's agendas, committee members narrowly agreed to allow the presentation in a 7-6 vote.

Representatives from KNN Public Finance and other financial advisers said the district plans to ask the state Board of Education to increase its bonding capacity from the legal maximum of 2.5 percent of assessed property values in the district to 5 percent through 2025. Without the increase, the district would not immediately be able to draw money from the new $270 million Measure H on the June ballot, if passed, or from existing construction bond measures as quickly as the district wants.

The presentation did not provide any information on total assessed property values in the district or other information the committee needed to make an informed decision. And some committee members complained that the last-minute presentation appeared to be aimed at fulfilling a state requirement that the district "consult" with community members before submitting the application, but they denied that any "consultation" had taken place and refused to rubber-stamp the plan.


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Instead, they formed an ad hoc committee to carefully review the proposal and said they expected any objections they may raise to be included in the application to the state Board of Education, which Ricco said was not done in 2011.

Resident Linda Ruiz-Lozito said West Contra Costa has the highest foreclosure rate in the county and the highest rate of delinquent property taxes. Some people, she said, must choose between paying property taxes and buying groceries.

Raising the debt limit would allow the district to issue $170 million in bonds every two years, from 2015 to 2021, plus another $182.3 million by 2025 if Measure H passes, while continuing to pay the debt on existing bonds, the consultants said.

Raising the limit could also keep property taxes under the cap of $60 per $100,000 of assessed property value for each measure, consultants said, although committee members questioned that assertion. The calculations were based on the assumption that property values would go up 4 percent per year through 2025.

"This is a very important issue, and it's an issue that voters and other people in my community I don't think have been adequately informed about," said district resident Ben Steinberg. "And when they ask questions, they cannot get information from our district. It's very troubling."

Waller said he felt "used" by the district.

"It just really has to go on the record how bad this has evolved," he said. "And we just deserve to be mad as hell."

WEST CONTRA COSTA BONDING CAPACITY WAIVERS
DATE MEASURE ADJUSTED CAPACITY* EXPIRATION DATE NEW REQUEST
2002 2002 Measure D 3 percent November 2007 No change
2009 2005 Measure J 3.5 percent May 2014 5 percent through 2025
2011 2010 Measure D 5 percent December 2021 Extend through 2025
2013 2012 Measure E 5 percent December 2025 No change
2014 2014 Measure H** N/A N/A N/A 5 percent through 2025
*Percentage of assessed value of property within district.
**If approved by voters June 3.
To see the PowerPoint presentation and video clips from the meeting, visit www.contracostatimes.com/education.
SOURCE: KNN Public Finance.