MARTINEZ -- Contra Costa voters will be asked this June to pay more property taxes to improve aging community college facilities.
After almost a year of discussion on ways to pay for renovations of the 65-year-old Contra Costa Community College District's aging facilities, trustees this week approved placing a $450 million bond measure on the June 3 ballot.
"I would like to move forward with this bond, because what I'm not comfortable with are the facilities. This is something we can do to improve it," trustee John Nejedly said. "I don't think it's too much to ask the voters."
The estimated cost to finish the second and third phases of a master plan for Contra Costa College, Diablo Valley College and Los Medanos College is about $700 million, Ray Pyle, the district's chief facilities planner, said.
Contra Costa property owners now pay $13 each year for each $100,000 in assessed value resulting from two similar voter-approved bond measures over the past dozen years for improvements -- a $120 million measure in 2002 and a $286.5 million one in 2006.
If approved by voters, the June measure would double that amount to $26.
The bond proceeds would improve accessibility for those with disabilities, campus grounds, classrooms and lab technology, which several teachers and students Wednesday said are necessary.
Projects on the table include seismic retrofitting of existing buildings and a new Science and Allied Health building at Contra Costa College; renovating the Engineering Technology, Music and Performing Arts buildings at DVC; and new Student Activities and Performing Art buildings at LMC.
Funding would also go toward a new campus in Brentwood and expansion of the San Ramon campus.
The majority of speakers Wednesday said modern facilities are critical to helping county residents find jobs and compete in a 21st century economy
"There's really no better investment one can make in education them helping people go well beyond high school education and be able to compete for today's jobs," said Stephen Baiter, executive director of the county's workforce development board.
William van Dyk, a dentist and chair of the district's bond oversight committee, said all but one of his staff have come through district schools and are excellent workers. New facilities would help continue to provide those key employees throughout the county, he said.
But some that county residents, particularly in West Contra Costa, are already facing a barrage of ballot measures and the price tag is steep.
"The residents in the western portion will be hammered. And we don't know what will come about in the November election," said Alex Aliferis, executive director of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association.
He urged the board to go for a lower dollar amount.
Pleasant Hill resident Wendy Lack added: "From a resident's point of view, this proposal is too big and expensive -- and your timing is exceptionally bad. Many residents are unemployed, underemployed and financially stretched."
Another issue that popped up is the awarding of construction contracts. The college district agreed to a contract in 2011 known as a project labor agreement, which set strict rules limiting construction to local workers on projects over $2 million and requires that contractors pay prevailing wages.
Though her group hasn't taken a position, Nicole Goehring of the Northern California chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors, which represents nonunion contractors, urged the board to allow for open competition for construction bids.
The bond measure will require 55-percent voter approval. A survey of 1,200 likely voters in October found that 67 percent would be in favor.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.