West Contra Costa officials' thirst for school construction money knows no bounds, and they're willing to deceive voters and load huge debt on current and future generations to get it.
School district officials are seeking the seventh bond approval in 17 years, which would drive up West Contra Costa property tax rates, already the highest in the county, even more.
We all want good schools and good education for our children. But that doesn't justify reckless spending and election deception. Measure H on the June 3 ballot misleads voters and should be rejected.
Contra Costa County Counsel Sharon Anderson wrote the misleading ballot pamphlet analysis and school district Superintendent Bruce Harter penned the accompanying tax rate statement. The problem is not what they include; it's what they conveniently leave out.
First, there's the amount of the bonds on the ballot. Anderson and Harter say the measure would enable the district to float $270 million of bonds. They don't mention that voters in six previous elections already authorized borrowing more than $1.6 billion. Measure H would bring the total to $1.9 billion.
Of that, the district has already borrowed more than $1 billion. No other K-12 district in the state, with the exception of the much-larger Los Angeles and San Diego districts, has borrowed more since 1999.
Second, there's the cost to taxpayers. Anderson and Harter tell voters that repayment of the bonds on the June ballot is estimated to increase property taxes no more than $36 annually for every $100,000 of assessed valuation. That would work out to about $77 a year for an average home in the district assessed at $215,000.
They don't mention that the district's own projections show that debt wouldn't be paid off until 2055. Or that the total cost, including payments on bonds already approved, would reach nearly 10 times as much.
In the top year, 2017, the average homeowner would pay $760 just for school bonds. Owners of property assessed at more than $215,000 would pay proportionately more. For example, the owner of a home assessed at $500,000 would pay $1,764.
That's just one year. Moreover, the district has historically underestimated future tax rates, so be prepared for more.
In a high-poverty region, where the leaders of the largest city, Richmond, are rightfully concerned about homeowners losing their properties to foreclosure due to inability to pay, ballooning tax payments only make the problem worse.
Again, students deserve nice school environments. But that must be balanced against the cost -- the full cost.