While a $99 million bond measure to renovate school facilities in Dublin passed by a comfortable margin Tuesday, two Contra Costa districts saw their tax initiatives narrowly fail.
The Dublin school district's Measure E received 62 percent of the 4,795 total votes cast, easily exceeding the 55 percent required. The general obligation bonds will be used by the school district to update school facilities, purchase new technology and build a swimming pool at Dublin High School.
"This is really a testimony to our community and its support for Dublin schools," Superintendent Stephen Hanke said. "There's a recognition that great schools make a great community."
A similar measure to renovate 58-year-old Antioch High School fell just short of the 55 percent needed to pass, and West Contra Costa voters narrowly rejected a measure to extend and increase an existing parcel tax.
The approval of Measure E adds to Dublin voters' long record of support for their schools.
Measure E's passage authorizes the district to issue up to $99 million in general obligation bonds to fund updates to meet current fire, emergency and safety codes; upgrades to science and computer labs; the purchase of new technology, such as iPads, upgraded wireless connections and additional bandwidth; improvements to energy efficiency; and a $10 million aquatics center at the district's sole high school.
"We'll start making our plans right away," Hanke said. "We'll
Antioch's Measure J received 53.5 percent of the vote from those who live in an older section of the city.
Needs identified at the school will now have to wait. Those included new and reconfigured classrooms that better suit the school's aim to create learning groups; repairs to hallways and other aging structures; a new library and media center; and renovated sports facilities, including a new pool, track and locker rooms.
"If 112 votes had gone the other way, it would have passed. Talk about a squeaker," trustee Walter Ruehlig said. "I was surprised and disappointed."
The low turnout of registered voters, particularly those who are parents, played a hand in the defeat, Principal Louie Rocha said. Ruehlig said the voter turnout of 7,200, or about 25 percent, was "anemic."
Proponents of the Antioch measure argued that students at the school deserved to have improved amenities and that the school's current condition puts kids at a disadvantage.
Opponents largely agreed that the school needs improvement but argued taxpayers are overextended.
"We knew it was going to be a challenge and tried to get the word out through phone banking and talking to parents to get them out to vote, but in the end, I guess it wasn't enough," Rocha said.
In the West Contra Costa school district, Measure K fell just short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass. It garnered about 64.6 percent of the vote.
The measure would have extended an existing tax through 2017 but at a higher rate, costing property owners an additional 3 cents per square foot -- an extra $44 a year for the average homeowner.
"The measure passed overwhelmingly in most of the district, but in Pinole and Hercules, they voted just enough to kill it," school board President Charles Ramsey said. "They just don't embrace the funding measures like most of the district voters do."
The new tax would have boosted the amount of money raised every year by $4 million. The current tax, which expires in 2014, raises about $9.7 million a year for the school system, according to Superintendent Bruce Harter.
The tax revenue wouldn't have made the school district whole again; the district's general fund budget has taken a $40 million hit in the past three years, Harter said. The district recently repaid in full its state bailout loan, he said.
Ramsey said he hopes the vote will spur renewed debate about the possibility of breaking up the district.
"We have to have the conversation about whether or not it's in all parties' best interest for Hercules and Pinole to start their own district," Ramsey said. "It's not fair for other communities in our district to have funding measures they overwhelmingly support being stopped by a tiny minority that says no."
Staff writer Robert Rogers contributed to this story. Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Contact Jason Sweeney at 925-847-2123.