Local school district out of money

March 6, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
State budget cuts are hitting the West Contra Costa Unified School District so hard, that a board member tells ABC7 News, the district may have to file for bankruptcy.

A lot of school districts are required to report their financial status. The West Contra Costa Unified School District's report doesn't look good. They now have a qualified certification, which means they can pay their bills through the end of this fiscal year, which ends in June. But then, they go on to say that the district may not meet their financial obligations for the next two fiscal years.

For the second time in 17 years, West Contra Costa Unified School District may be facing bankruptcy.

Charles Ramsey is a school board member.

"We could declare it, but the state would have to come in and fund the schools. As you know we went bankrupt in 1991. If we can't pay our bills, we're talking about a $30 million dollars deficit in two years," said school board member Charles Ramsey.

Given the proposed state budget cuts and the financial projections here, the district may not meet its financial obligations for the next two years.

Last night the school board voted to send out 132 pink slips to staff, including teachers and vice principals.

"I feel betrayed, I feel betrayed by the people I put in office. I feel like they are not valuing our children, not valuing our future," said teacher Melanie Perkins.

Also in jeopardy is their class size reduction program which keeps classes small mainly in the lower grades.

"In my neighborhood, people understand making budget cuts if it means that a freeway on-ramp doesn't get built for a year, but we can't wait for a year to teach a child to read," said Gail Mendes from United Teachers of Richmond.

Gail Mendes is with United Teachers of Richmond. On Thursday, she joined other union presidents representing Alameda and Contra Costa counties. They focused on ways to deal with these drastic cuts.

"What we need to be talking about is, how are we going to attract teachers into our schools if we continue to make cuts in education like this," said Mendes.

This district has schools in Richmond, San Pablo, El Sobrante, El Cerrito, Hercules and Kensington.

Late last year, a proposed parcel tax did not pass. Measure G would have raised $14 million dollars a year over eight years for the district.

"It didn't pass, but we're going out again in November. We're not giving up," said Ramsey.

Homeowners in West Contra Costa already fund four bond measures, and two parcel taxes. The question is how are they going to convince people here and voters to support yet another parcel tax.

Ramsey said that in the next few months, they are going to campaign. The district is also going to sit down with community members to tell them how bad the situation really is.