RICHMOND -- In June, West Contra Costa school district voters will be asked to increase a parcel tax they are already paying to support schools and extend it to 2017.

If approved, the district might not have to follow through on nearly 53 layoffs the board approved in a split vote Wednesday, board President Charles Ramsey said Thursday.

"The big news is that the board decided to wipe out class-size reduction," he said. "That's what the pink slips were for. That was the killer. That's what I struggled with. So if the parcel tax doesn't pass, class-size reduction is gone. That's the big deal."

Trustees unanimously agreed to ask voters to increase their current parcel tax of 7.2 cents per square foot by 3 cents to 10.2 cents and to extend the tax to 2017. It is now set to expire in 2014.

The tax, which now generates about $9.6 million a year, would boost revenues to $13.6 million annually, if passed, according to a staff report. This would enable the district to keep the 27 elementary teachers, 19 high school educators and counselors and about seven districtwide instructional coaches and teachers on special assignment who are scheduled to receive preliminary layoff notices, Ramsey said.

If voters reject the tax, the district would eliminate class-size reduction in kindergarten through second grade next fall, he said. Currently, kindergarten classes are to 24-1, and first and second grades are 20-1, Ramsey said.

He said the elimination of class-size reduction would boost K-2 classes to 28-1.


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Trustee Tony Thurmond said he voted against the layoffs because they would hurt the district's efforts to narrow the achievement gap. Although he understands the need to reduce the district's expenses, he said he is philosophically opposed to the idea of laying off teachers in the spring and then scrambling to rehire some in the fall.

But Ramsey said it is important for the board to show the state that it can balance its budget, now that it is hoping to end its state receivership. He estimated the proposed increase would boost most homeowners' taxes by about $60 per parcel.

MORE INFORMATION
Details about the West Contra Costa school board meeting are available by calling 510-307-4526 or visiting www.wccusd.net. Click on "Board of Education."