The editorial in the Aug. 27 edition of this paper, "Years of deceit root of the district's soaring tax bills," is just wrong. Property taxes are increasing because our voters -- 64.4 percent of them -- approved Measure E in November 2012.
Taxpayers in West County know that there are six school district bond measures on their tax bills. Each measure is listed separately on their tax bills and voters have approved them all. Why? Because they join us in believing that providing West Contra Costa students with buildings that are conducive to learning, safe, attractive and will last for the next 60 to 75 years is the right thing to do and worth their investment.
Another reason the voters supported these measures is that they believe the district will do exactly what we committed to in the ballot measures. Since the district's bond program began in 1998, the district has set the tax rate at or below the maximum level allowed by each measure 53 out of 53 times.
Despite the Great Recession's impact on assessed values in West Contra Costa, the district has never exceeded the tax rate on any of those six measures, even though it would have been legal to do so and consistent with what many other districts have done.
Rock-bottom interest rates over the past few years are saving our taxpayers millions in repayment costs. During this time our board has authorized three separate refinancing issuances that have saved taxpayers $19.9 million over what we would have paid with the original interest rates.
All the board's discussions and decisions about the bond program are made in televised public meetings. The program has both financial and program performance audits every year that are released at public meetings and posted on the district's website.
Our taxpayers also support the program because they see the improvements in their neighborhoods both for our students and for their own property values. They like the progress that the district is making in renovating and rebuilding schools.
They know that this bond program is the right thing to do for our kids and will help them succeed in the future. With a number of schools on or close to the Hayward Fault or constructed 50 or more years ago when there was little consideration for seismic danger, our modernized schools are now the safest places in our community.
We've also been renovating the other schools to bring them up to 21st century standards for learning space, plumbing, electricity, heating, ventilation and technology.
A great example of our program is the all-new DeAnza High School in Richmond, which opened last month. The bidding climate in 2010 saved the taxpayers more than $30 million in construction costs. Yet the building is both educationally functional and attractive in the community. And there are many other examples including Ford and King elementary schools in Richmond, Dover and Downer elementary schools in San Pablo, Pinole Middle School, Ohlone Elementary in Hercules and El Cerrito High School. These are just a few of the bond program schools that will be serving our community for many years to come.
Our community members also know that much remains to be done. Work on Portola Middle, Coronado and Nystrom elementary schools and Gompers and Leadership high schools are currently underway with Pinole Valley High and several other school projects just around the corner.
If you have doubts, please take a tour and see what your tax dollars are doing for our students and community.
Bruce Harter is superintendent of the West Contra Costa Unified School District.