District explores tax, bond
Poll checks countywide support for measures
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 15:05
The district is surveying how county taxpayers may vote on a parcel tax measure and a separate $250 million general obligation bond to fund construction.
Based on the results of the survey, the Governing Board will vote at its monthly meeting at Los Medanos College in Pittsburg at 6 p.m. tonight whether or not to put neither, one or both of the initiatives on the Nov. 6 ballot.
If passed in November, the $11 parcel tax attached to annual property taxes will help soften the blow of continuous state cuts to the district. The bond, also paid for annually as part of property taxes, will pay for large, scheduled construction projects at each of the three colleges in the district. The state pays for colleges’ operating budgets, but not for facilities projects.
The parcel tax, which would be the first approved for the Contra Costa Community College District, would charge Contra Costa County taxpayers and businesses $11 per plot of land each year. It is expected to alleviate some woes created by diminished state funding in recent years and those to come, Contra Costa College Interim President Dan Henry said.
CCC’s operating budget for 2011-12 was reduced to $25 million this year. The state has reduced allocations for four consecutive years and will do so again in 2012-13.
The district’s consultants estimate $3 to 4 million to be generated in annual funding through the tax expected to last five to six years. It requires a two-thirds vote for passage. The bond requires only a majority.
“Few parcel tax measures are attempted and very few are successful,” Henry said. “(Bonds) are a lot easier to pass.”
Separate from the county’s measures, the state November ballot also lists two competing tax initiatives that guarantee funds for K-12 schools. Only one provides any funding to community colleges.
If passed, the California Sales and Income Tax Increase Initiative, a combined proposal of the “Millionaire’s Tax” and Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax plan, will raise sales tax in the state from 7.25 percent to 7.5 percent. It will also increase the state income tax on incomes exceeding $250,000 for seven years and tax those making $1 million or more 13.3 percent instead of the current 10.3 percent.
The initiative will give 89 percent of its revenues to the K-12 system and the remaining 11 percent to community colleges. It is expected to bring in $6.8 to 9 billion for 2012-13 and an average of $5.4 billion to $7.6 billion for the next five years with a smaller amount in 2018-19.
The opposing measure, proposed and supported by Pasadena Attorney Molly Munger, directs most of its revenue to K-12 schools and early childhood programs.
California community colleges are funded by the state through Full-Time Equivalent Student (FTES). One FTES equals one student taking 12 units.
In recent years, CCC has enrolled students beyond its FTES projections in hope of growth funds given by the state, Henry said.
“Of course we always want to get (growth funding),” Henry said. “It’s the reason we aim higher than we’re funded for.”
The money generated from the parcel tax could go to saving sections and programs and helping student services with longer hours and additional employees, district Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services John al-Amin said.
Henry said although he is for the parcel tax, it is not the answer to relieving the college or the district in a time of economic difficulty.
“I hope we get back to a time when we as a state decide to make the secondary and post-secondary education a priority and fund it appropriately,” Henry said. “The college could definitely use the funding and we would commit to using it effectively.”
The results of month-long telephone surveying to random households in the county will assess if voters will support either of the measures, al-Amin said.
“It’s just a general inquiry to get voters’ beliefs,” he said. “You do the survey to get an idea of whether or not you’ll be successful.”
The district hopes to receive feedback on the survey at the level required to pass both measures. Even if the survey comes back with negative results, the Governing Board can still vote to put the measures on the November ballot.
The bond is part of the district’s facilities master plans for CCC, LMC and Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill. County bond monies can only be allocated to construction projects to improve facilities. Most of the bond money will be used to complete phases 2 and 3 and some of phase 4 of each colleges’ five-part plan, district Chief Facilities Planner Ray Pyle said.
“(The bond will) create more modern colleges, more access and an improved infrastructure,” Pyle said.
The district has used up 99 percent of the $120 million 2002 Measure A Bond and about one-third of the $280 million 2006 Measure A+ Bond, al-Amin said. Nearly half of the 2006 bond funds have been allocated to projects across the district.
“We have roughly half a billion dollars (in planned expenditures) to go to capital projects (at the colleges),” he said. “Colleges are currently prioritizing projects.”