RICHMOND -- The West Contra Costa school board voted unanimously Wednesday evening to refinance $100 million worth of school bonds to keep tax rates at limits that voters were promised.
The refunding will keep tax rates for bonds sold under authorizations passed in 2002 and 2005 at $60 per $100,000 in assessed valuation for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 fiscal years, according to district Finance Director Sheri Gamba.
It also will reduce interest payments on the $137.9 million the district will owe on the bonds by $12.6 million over the next 22 to 24 years, a 10.7 percent reduction, she said.
"We have done several refundings in the past that have saved taxpayers $30 million to $40 million," Gamba said.
The district has issued nearly $1 billion worth of bonds, mostly for new school construction, authorized under six bond measures passed since 1998.
It has more than $600 million remaining in bonding capacity, although Measure H, a $270 million measure, was defeated in the June 3 election.
The board also passed its 2014-15 budget, which mandates $229.2 million in spending compared with $223.7 million in revenue. The roughly $5.5 million deficit will be made up by spending down reserves, which will remain above their target of 4 percent of budget by $1.4 million at the end of the year.
Gamba told the board that the budget should move into the black by 2016-17 under current estimates of income from the state Local Control Funding Formula, which will provide millions in extra money for districts with high percentages of students from low-income families.
Trustees also approved an accountability plan for the funding formula required by the state to make sure that the money will be used to meet the educational needs of previously underserved student groups.
The district held a series of meetings and workshops on the accountability plan and received advice from a select committee consisting of community members and district officials.
"We're getting better at listening," said board member Todd Groves of the process. "We have a lot of work to do and a long way to go to improve student achievement in our district."
The district announced that Richmond College Prep, a charter elementary school in the economically depressed Iron Triangle neighborhood, is one of 106 schools statewide chosen as Title I Achievement Award winners for 2013-14.
The awards are given to schools that have had exceptional student performance for two or more consecutive years and that have made the most progress in closing the achievement gap among socio-economic groups.