Phillips: WCCUSD board missing opportunity to address budget shortfall

Mister Phillips, member of the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board of Education.

By Mister Phillips

Last night, the school board received a staff presentation titled “Potential Lease, Sale or Exchange of Properties.” The purpose of the presentation was to present options to leverage unused school district property to help secure the long-term financial health of the district. The options included the sale, lease, and exchange of district property.

Although I am uninterested in selling district property, I am interested in leasing district property to a developer for the purpose of building multi-family housing. That could be a win-win. The district could receive significant rents and some work-force housing to attract and retain employees. The community could receive much needed housing and construction jobs.

Unfortunately, the board refused to even consider its options. That was most unfortunate. The district has a $48 million budget deficit. That is not bake sale money.

Here is what $48 million means to the district.

  • 31.7 % of certificated salaries (e.g., teachers, counselors, nurses)
  • 49.6 % percent of books and supplies
  • 70.2 % of classified salaries (e.g., custodians, yard supervisors, classroom aides)
  • 131.8 % of federal revenues to the district

Simply put, the district cannot afford $48 million in cuts. The board must take bold action to increase ongoing revenues. Leasing unused district property to a developer for much needed multi-family housing is one example of bold action.

I feel so strongly about the district’s need to increase ongoing revenues that I will not consider budget cuts or a new parcel tax unless they are part of a package deal that increases ongoing revenues to the district.

As far as I am concerned, it is wrong to balance the budget on the backs of low-income students and working families when the board knows there are other options to at least shrink the district’s deficit.

Mister Phillips is a longtime community advocate who currently serves as a member of the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board of Trustees.