The school board of the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) and its community of parents, students, teachers and staff take great pride in its bond program. Tens of thousands of students are now able to enjoy safe, modern, and accessible school buildings as a result.
We understand our responsibilities as the fiscal stewards of this community's valued resources. Consequently, we feel compelled to respond to Dan Borenstein's recent column about our bond program.
First, tax rates will not increase for the next four years on existing bonds. Quite the contrary, the district set aside more than $12.5 million to ensure that tax rates don't increase over the next four years. This was made possible by a very successful refunding in June of 2012, which allowed the district to lower tax rates for the Measure M, Measure D, Measure J, and Measure D bond measures.
To further ensure that tax rates would not increase, in 2009 the district used $1.5 million from Measure J to stabilize tax rates for Measure D. WCCUSD is committed to its pledge not to exceed statutory tax rates, and that goal was accomplished.
Keep in mind that the district is not borrowing from one credit card to pay another. Instead, it is using funds strategically -- taking surplus funds from projects that are under budget and using them to protect taxpayers.
Second, Borenstein mentioned the use of capital appreciation bonds (CABs) in 2010, but he failed to disclose the rest of the story. The $2.5 million CAB was part of a transaction that allowed the district to take advantage of stimulus money from the Obama administration. We actually received $25 million worth of our bonds at an interest rate of 1.25 percent. The CAB was a necessary step to complete the transaction. Without the CAB, we would have lost millions in subsidies that helped us rebuild Ohlone Elementary School and support students. This transaction ultimately resulted in the best overall deal for the district.
Third, the district's process for the debt limit waiver application has been open and transparent. Not only did WCCUSD publish notice of the waiver application twice in the Times, but the district received official support from Sen. Loni Hancock, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, and 11 different public entities -- including every City Council in the district -- and had a full public meeting to discuss our support of the waiver.
Fourth, Borenstein fails to mention that the district has received more than $116 million in state matching money because of its well-run bond program. This is money that goes directly into our local schools at no cost to the taxpayer. In addition, the district was successful in advocating for an additional $12.8 million for the Gompers Continuation High School/Leadership Charter High School joint-use facility.
Finally, the district has another $20 million coming for Portola Middle School from the Seismic Safety Fund -- a fund that has been untapped by almost every other school district in the state.
Voters are not dumb. The school district listens to the community -- through open meetings, direct conversations, polling and more. This community has repeatedly said it wants the district to continue to move ahead with the rebuilding program so that every child has access to safe, clean schools. This community wisely understands the grand bargain and is able to make sense of a ballot pamphlet. Any suggestion otherwise is an insult to our community, which values its children, teachers and staff and wants them to have safe, modern, and accessible schools.
Madeline Kronenberg and Charles Ramsey are members of the WCCUSD school board.