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Opinion: Vote No on Measure R

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The cost of living in Richmond is skyrocketing, squeezing residents and causing
gentrification. West Contra Costa Unified School District’s $575 million bond
measure, Measure R, is on the March ballot and would make things worse.

To pay back this proposed bond, the District will force resident property taxes to
increase $60 for every $100,000 in a home’s assessed value. Thus, if your
home’s assessed value is $500,000, you will pay an extra $300 annually for
Measure R until the year 2054! Moreover, landlords will pass this added cost on
to renters, increasing the cost of living for everyone.

Two bonds ago, the District promised to finish the school construction program
for all the schools in the district. It didn’t. We have now spent $1.6 billion and,
despite District promises, neither Kennedy nor Richmond High Schools have
been rebuilt. Instead, the District chose to spend over $360 million to rebuild two
high schools in other wealthier cities while many Richmond High School students
do not even have adequately heated classrooms. For that money, all four high
schools could have been rebuilt.

While we support the goals of Measure R to build better schools, the measure
does not address past waste, nor does it make legally-binding commitments to
rebuild specific schools and within a defined time period. Measure R will not help
resolve the District’s budget crisis, which may force 250+ teacher layoffs and
dramatically increase class size.

Stop the Waste and Vote No on R this March 3!

Ben Steinberg is a Richmond Resident and Chair of the “No on Measure R”
campaign;
Norma LaBat is a Richmond Resident and Community Advocate

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    In this editorial, Measure R opponents acknowledge the need and support the goal to finish rebuilding the schools in our District – with a school bond at some point in the future. It’s time to address the issue now, not wait. Construction costs in the Bay Area are escalating, and deferring the work even a couple of years will cost taxpayers tens of millions more.

    The District established a well designed facilities master plan in 2016, with extensive community input. This comprehensive plan assessed the needs of all our schools, and set investment priorities, with specific projects at specific schools. Since that time, the District bond and construction program has followed the plan closely, and the plan will guide Measure R investments into the future as is clearly spelled out in the bond measure text.

    The District has managed construction costs relative to budget. Since 2016, projects completed or under way are at or under budgets established by the Board. In fact, the most recent major project, the rebuild of Nystrom Elementary, was completed $3.7 million under budget.

    The District has used previous bonds to rebuild and modernize many of the schools in our neighborhoods – 44 of 53 schools in the District have been rebuilt or had some renovation – but the work is unfinished. Independent experts have indicated that over $1 billion in improvements are required at District schools. And, many of these schools are located in very underserved areas – especially Richmond. In our diverse district, this is a major equity issue.

    Quality schools are an excellent investment: they prepare our community’s children to be successful members of society, improve quality of life, and increase property values. This community has faithfully supported public education. Every child in our District – regardless of neighborhood or zip code – deserves a safe and modern facility in which to learn. The Bayside Council of PTAs has endorsed Measure R and encourages all to vote YES on Tuesday, March 3rd!

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