RICHMOND -- Encouraged by a poll it commissioned that showed significant voter support, the West Contra Costa school board voted Monday night to place a parcel tax and a bond measure to build new schools on the November ballot.
The parcel tax will extend the roughly $10 million in annual funding from a 2008 parcel tax beyond the end of the 2013-14 school year, when the current tax sunsets.
The bond measure would raise $360 million over 10 years to replace or rebuild aging and obsolete elementary and middle schools.
The decision on the dual measures follows the narrow failure of Measure K, a parcel tax proposal on the June 5 ballot. Measure K would have extended the current tax and provided $4 million more to pay for library and athletic programs, reduce class sizes and hire teachers, counselors and custodians.
The parcel tax and bond plan passed unanimously after the board debated a number of alternatives, including the scaled-down parcel tax by itself, reviving Measure K by itself, and including the bond measure with one or the other.
Board members also weighed whether to include the parcel tax or the bond in a special mail election in March to avoid competing with an array of tax proposals on the November ballot.
A telephone poll of about 600 likely voters revealed that 74.4 percent would definitely or likely support an extension of the parcel tax in November while 66.0 percent would definitely or likely back a
The parcel tax will require a two-thirds supermajority to pass while the bond needs 55 percent.
Pollster Bryan Godbe of San Mateo-based Godbe Research recommended a parcel tax renewal without the increase along with the bond or the enhanced parcel tax by itself.
Godbe advised against placing the higher parcel tax and the bond on the same ballot.
"When we pushed that plan (with potential voters), we saw some softness," he said.
"I believe you. You have been right in the past," board member Madeline Kronenberg told Godbe. "We need to win, and we need to win soon."
Board President Charles Ramsey argued strongly and consistently that the bond be included, calling it a matter of fairness to the schools that have been left out of the district's school modernization program.
"Several of our schools haven't gotten their fair share," Ramsey said. "I don't want to leave any of our kids behind."
"I'm convinced we can (pass) both," said board member Antonio Medrano. "Let's get working."
Several speakers at the meeting urged the board to help concerned parents to educate voters about the need to hire more teachers, reduce class size and rebuild schools.
The district, along with many others statewide, is also desperate for the passage of Prop. 30, a sales and income tax hike to benefit schools, placed on the statewide ballot by Gov. Jerry Brown.
If Prop. 30 loses, cash-strapped West Contra Costa's $175.7 million 2012-13 budget will be short $12 million, negating benefits from local taxes.
The board spent $30,000 to do the voter survey earlier this month following the failure of Measure K.