RICHMOND -- The West Contra Costa school board heard another dire prediction Wednesday evening of the consequences for the district if state tax increases and a local parcel tax don't pass Nov. 6.
Associate Superintendent Sheri Gamba told the board that West Contra Costa Unified could be $24.6 million in the hole at the end of the 2014-15 school year if Proposition 30, the tax increase proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown to help close the state budget deficit, doesn't receive at least 50 percent of the vote.
The $24.6 million figure assumes the district did not undertake extensive program cuts and layoffs to deal with the red ink.
Things could get even worse if Measure G, a district initiative to extend a $9.3 million-per-year parcel tax, is also rejected by voters. Since it's a parcel tax, Measure G requires two-thirds voter approval.
The district has also placed Measure E, a bond measure to replace aging schools, on the ballot. Prop. 38, a separate statewide tax increase for schools only, is also on the ballot, meaning district voters are weighing four separate tax increases for schools this fall.
Even if Prop. 30 and Measure G pass, the district will have to spend down most of a $13.5 million rainy day fund to balance its books and avoid cuts and layoffs over the next three years, Gamba said.
Prop. 30 is running below 50 percent in statewide polls this week, while Prop. 38 is trailing badly. If both measures pass, the one that receives the most votes will be enacted.
Gamba said an actuarial study has shown that the district's $900 million liability for retiree health care benefits in 2004 has been reduced to $364 million through changes achieved in collective bargaining with the district's unions.
The district pays $19 million out of its $166 million annual budget for retiree health benefits, according to the study, an estimate that board President Charles Ramsey said he thinks is low.
Board members also reviewed the district's 2012 Academic Performance Index growth targets. The average API score for the district's schools was 715 this year, up from 590 in 2002.
Kensington Hilltop Elementary led all schools with a 954 score, while Leadership Charter High School in Richmond and Middle College High School in San Pablo were the only high schools to break 800, Ramsey said.
Ramsey suggested the district make an effort to learn what the top-performing schools are doing to improve and maintain scores and share that information with other schools.
"Let's not be afraid to find out what they're doing," he said. "We have to perform better. The (five) comprehensive high schools in the district are lagging."
In other action, board members agreed to set a goal to reduce suspensions in the district by 25 percent. Richmond High has succeeded in cutting suspensions by 50 percent in the past year, according to district staff.
The board will hear a proposed suspension-reduction plan at its Nov. 14 meeting.
Ramsey said multiple suspensions can lead to students being expelled.
"It (then) becomes an attraction for other kids to drop out," he said.
"Significant numbers of our students are not achieving because they are not in class," said trustee Tony Thurmond. "We need to find out what (Richmond High) is doing."