The Endless WCCUSD Bond Debt Cycle

The Contra Costa County Taxpayers’ Association Director asked me re­cently why the West Contra Costa Unified School District needed a 7th school con­struc­tion bond as if there was some care­fully thought-out con­struc­tion-based plan­ning process be­hind it. I chuck­led. I shared with him these steps for how the wheel keeps go­ing ‘round:

  1. Survey/push-poll peo­ple with lead­ing ques­tions late in an odd-num­bered year.
  2. Find a tax rate that will give a com­fort­able mar­gin over 55%.
  3. Calculate a to­tal “bondage” amount based com­pletely on that tax rate.
  4. Attach a per­mis­sive scram­bled “project list” for every­thing and any­thing.
  5. Include front-end bal­lot text lan­guage to stay “within le­gal debt lim­its” along with buried back-end lan­guage that the dis­trict may have to seek a debt ceil­ing waiver. (For the last 2 bonds, the dis­trict has been over the statu­tory debt ceil­ing on waivers.)
  6. Put it on a June or November even-year bal­lot. (These are the only al­lowed dates for WCCUSD Prop. 39 elec­tions.)
  7. Use “scope-based” “bud­get­ing” to burn through the money while hold­ing the tax rate for that spe­cific bond with­ing the pro­jected limit.
  8. Repeat two years later.

The dis­trict pats it­self on the back for stay­ing at tar­get in­di­vid­ual bond tax rates, while a to­tal school bond tax rate that is al­ready the high­est in all of California con­tin­ues to grow more and more.