RICHMOND -- Hercules City Council members were pleased Wednesday evening when West Contra Costa school trustees agreed to pay for a second police officer at Hercules High/Middle School beginning Feb. 25.
The move by the trustees seemed to ease tensions between the district and the city.
"There are 1,800 to 2,000 students on that campus at any one time," Hercules Councilman Dan Romero told the board. "This shows your commitment to the safety of the students."
Hercules lost its second school resource officer last year because of district budget cuts, even though the district's other five comprehensive high schools have at least two resource officers paid for by the district.
Meanwhile, the combined high school and middle school, with the largest student population of any single campus in the district, has had more than 160 calls for service this school year for fights, suspicious persons on campus and other issues.
Hercules police Chief Bill Goswick, who attended the meeting, has said he is straining to deal with the increasing demand for his officers' time with a force that has shrunk to 20 from a high of 28.
Goswick said the officer who was pulled from service at the school last year will return.
"We will have an already-trained officer at the school on the 25th," he said.
Hercules Mayor John Delgado and Councilman Bill Kelly were also on hand to lend support.
School board member Charles Ramsey said the district needed to act despite budgets that are strained to the breaking point.
"I could not in good conscience allow a situation where they only had one officer up there when every other high school has two," Ramsey said. "We did take this step; we did listen."
The district has had some other issues with Hercules and, to a lesser extent, Pinole.
Voters in the two cities haven't provided the same level of support for past parcel taxes and bond measures as other cities in the district, and Hercules is the one city among the five in the district that has yet to endorse West Contra Costa's petition for relief from a state-imposed ceiling on bond debt to replace or renovate aging schools.
Earlier in the evening, pollster Bryan Godbe of San Mateo-based Godbe Research reported back on a recent survey of voter sentiment for a new parcel tax to raise more money for services that might include raising teacher salaries or lowering class sizes.
Not surprisingly, the chances for approval rise the longer West Contra Costa waits to put the tax on the ballot and the lower the amount it asks taxpayers to approve.
About 57 percent of voters surveyed would be likely to vote yes on a parcel tax at 5 cents per square foot on the June ballot, even after a district support campaign, far short of the two-thirds needed for approval.
On the other hand, 69.6 percent would be likely to vote for a tax at 3 cents per square foot on the June 2014 ballot, Godbe said.
"Five cents sounds like a no-go," Ramsey said. "June, 2014 at 3 cents sounds like the ideal."
Added board member Todd Groves: "We have a lot of education to do about the sacrifices our staff is making and class sizes (before a tax election)."
West Contra Costa remains in negotiations with the United Teachers of Richmond over a new contract, and about 15 teachers, backed by others in the audience, urged the board to raise salaries.
The teachers said their pay is far below the average for Contra Costa County. They also said they have gone without a raise for four years and have to pay a substantial amount for health benefits for their spouses and children.