Measure B supporters present case at Council meeting
By James Ott
It’s election season – and as such, two high-profile ballot measures were on the agenda at the Antioch City Council meeting on Tuesday, October 23, 2012.
Measure B is a ballot measure that seeks a $56.5 million in school bonds to provide modern renovations for 58-year-old Antioch High School. The bonds would be paid over 30 years by new property taxes within the Antioch Unified School Facilities Improvement District #1 (SFID #1).
The district estimates that the highest tax rate required from property owners within SFID #1 would be $49.80 per $100,000 of assessed valuation per year beginning next year. Currently that works out to roughly $6 per month per homeowner.
Measure B will require a 55 percent majority vote to pass.
Money generated by Measure B will be used for improvements to the Antioch High School campus such as classroom renovations, a larger cafeteria, a new library with a college and career center, new computers and technology supplies for students, and to update outdated athletic facilities.
The Measure requires all of the funds raised to be used to, “modernize, renovate, construct, acquire, equip, furnish, and otherwise improve school and related facilities at Antioch High School.” In addition it requires the school district to pursue matching funds from the State and other potential sources to finance those upgrades.
Measure B will require the district to perform independent financial and performance audits each year until all of the bond money is spent. And if it’s passed it will also require the district to elect local residents to a citizen’s oversight committee to monitor the bond moneys and make sure they are spent only on school improvements and not on things such as teacher or administrator salaries.
Antioch High School Principal Louie Rocha is a strong supporter of the ballot measure and he stressed during the council meeting how vital improvements are to the aging school. In particular he stated that the cafeteria is so small that the school is forced to have several lunch periods and even then he said that students are still forced to eat outside, regardless of the weather.
Also of note were the athletic facilities. Rocha said that the track cannot be used for any track and field events because it’s so old that its lengths are still measured in feet and yards instead of the standard meters. And the pool, he said, cannot be used for water polo because one side is only three feet deep because it was only designed years ago as a community pool.
Supporters of the bond measure such as Rocha say that the school is in sore need of repair and that there is no other money available to make such improvements. They say that up-to-date classrooms and facilities are necessary for students to meet state and federal standards and to graduate and be prepared for college.
Critics of Measure B say that school officials are ignoring what happened just this past June with Measure J – a similar $59.5 million school bond that was defeated by voters. Although Measure J failed to pass by a mere 31 votes, critics say that the school board is ignoring what voters want.
A resident at the council meeting spoke against the measure and said that although the yearly amount for Measure B was low, over the 30-year life of the bond he estimated he would have to pay an additional $115,000 in property taxes.
Like many in this deteriorating economy, a lot of Antioch residents are hesitant to vote yes when that vote means additional taxes.
Also at the Meeting:
The City of Antioch is seeking $114,723 owed to it by Contra Costa County as the successor agency to the city’s redevelopment agency.
When Antioch’s redevelopment agency was dissolved and its funds were spirited away by the state, the city had the option to become a successor agency to that redevelopment entity.
By becoming a successor agency, the city guaranteed itself about $250,000 a year as part of an administrative cost allowance.
Or so the city thought.
Back in January the city told the county that they needed $125,000, (the $250,000 is paid in two yearly installments), and the county forked it over.
But in June when Antioch asked for the rest of the money, Contra Costa County informed them that they did not have enough money to pay the city.
So they gave them about $10,526.
Now the city is attempting to retrieve the remaining $114,473.
Although the county now has the money to pay Antioch, they told the city that the regulations surrounding the city as successor agency program prevents them from making a back payment.
City of Antioch Finance Director Dawn Merchant held a meeting with the county recently and said that the county claims they have never run into this problem. Merchant called the meeting “positive” however, and said she came away with the impression that there is hope for the city to get they money it is owed.
Antioch City Attorney Lynn Nerland said that there are about 25 lawsuits pending in relation to the state-wide dissolution of redevelopment agencies and summed up the city’s most current debacle with the county.
“No one seems to dispute that we are owed money,” she said, “but it seems to be a bureaucratic issue of how to get it to us.”