By Helen Naizghi
As a result of the Nov. 2 local elections, Measure M, a tax to support public schools in the West Contra Costa Unified School District, did not pass, having received less than two-thirds of the vote from district voters in Contra Costa County.
Measure M is a parcel tax measure, proposed for the benefit of the students in WCCUSD. Had Measure M passed, the funds to be collected from it would have been distributed to schools throughout the district, improving the quality of the teachers, programs, sanitation and safety. In addition, the money would have restored elementary music programs and helped prepare students for college and careers.
All homeowners in the WCCUSD, excluding citizens ages 65 and older, would have been taxed $7.20 per square feet of their home, averaging to a fee of about $110 per year for each homeowner, according to forthechildrenofwestcounty.com.
Homeowners with larger houses would have paid more compared to those with smaller houses. Due to the Legislative Analyst Office’s prediction that the state budget crisis will not improve for four years, the Measure M tax was planned to last for five years.
In order to ensure that 100 percent of the funds went to schools, an independent citizen oversight committee would have supervised the spending of Measure M funds.
However, since Measure M was not passed, budgets for schools in the WCCUSD will decrease, affecting school programs by cutting the amount of supplies and money provided, as well as increasing classroom sizes.
According to Hercules High School Principal Guy Zakrevsky, schools in the WCCUSD will likely lose teachers as well as cut back on AP classes, music and athletics next school year.
“Staffing concerns [go] as far as decreasing staff hiring,” HHS Vice Principal Guthrie Fleischman said. “I was hoping it would pass. Schools needed that money.”
“I do see that the communities are overwhelmed by the amount of taxes,” HMHS music teacher Sharon Calonico said. “I voted for it, because I believe public schools need the help. The biggest thing for me as a music teacher, is that if Measure M had passed, the district could have reinstated elementary music.”
While teachers and faculty feel Measure M would have served as a benefit to schools, students have mixed opinions.
“We do this every year with the district, [and there has been] no improvement,” HHS sophomore Rachel Redlo said. “I can understand why people don’t want to pass it; taxes are a little high and we haven’t seen many results in the school district.”
Meanwhile, HHS senior Deanna Coffey sees the advantage.
“I voted for it to pass because it’s for the schools and I don’t pay taxes,” Coffey said. Although she will have graduated by the time the measure takes effect, she supported it “so the other students would benefit [from it].”
Similarly, Mika Chisaki, HMHS Instructional Aide and parent of two HHS students, said that even if her kids were not attending schools in the district, she would still support it. “It’s good for the schools where I live. I would like the students to have the same opportunities my kids had,” Chisaki said.