Four East Bay school districts seek voter approval June 3 for bond measures to fund construction. We recommend passage of the measures for the Contra Costa Community College District and the Fremont and Piedmont unified school districts.
We'll address the fourth measure, proposed by the West Contra Costa school district, on Monday.
School bonds are essentially loans repaid by increasing taxes on property owners. In reviewing the ballot measures, we examine how the districts would spend the money and weigh that against the extra school taxes. We also review the repayment plans to ensure interest costs would be reasonable.
Yes on Contra Costa Community College District Measure E: Many of the district's flimsily constructed buildings date back to the 1950s. While they were cheaper to build at the time, some have reached the end of their useful lives and others need rehabilitation.
The district is still paying off two prior voter-approved bond measures from 2002 and 2006. Measure E would authorize $450 million in new bonds, which the district plans to repay over the next 25 years. For the owner of an average $350,000 home, that would roughly double the tax levy for bonds to about $94 annually.
Yes on Fremont School District Measure E: The district is taking a measured approach to upgrading facilities. After identifying $1.6 billion of needs, the district pared to $407 million in today's dollars. Anticipating construction will take eight or nine years, the district seeks approval of $650 million of bonds to account for contingencies and inflation.
Property owners already pay a parcel tax for district operations. And they are paying for two prior voter-approved bond measures from 1991 and 2002. Measure E would extend payments on district bonds through 2051. If voters approve it and renew the parcel tax when it expires, the total bill for an average $450,000 home would increase from $191 a year to $479 in 2018.
Yes on Piedmont School District Measure H: In any other city, the existing school property taxes would be unthinkable. But this is Piedmont, where assessed home values average $821,000.
Property owners already pay a flat $2,406 per parcel for school operations, plus an amount based on assessed value to retire existing school construction bonds. For an average homeowner the total is $3,692 per year.
Measure H seeks permission to float another $13 million in bonds to repair and renovate the Alex Harvey Theater on the Piedmont High School campus. That would add $136 the first year for the average homeowner, bringing the annual bill to $3,828. The total would decline starting in 2019 as payments on previously approved bonds drop.