Tough cuts ahead for West County (CA) schools

The rejection of a recent tax may force the West Contra Costa School District to cut several positions, including those of school library workers.

The Measure G parcel tax would have brought $14 million to the West Contra Costa school district annually. The current parcel tax, which brings $10 million to the district, expires in June 2009, leaving the school board desperate to carve those millions from an already lean budget.

Board President Karen Pfeifer admits that the situation is grim. “I don’t know what ideas we’re going to come up with, but it’s going to be dramatic,” said Pfeifer. “We don’t have any options here. We’re going to have to start figuring out who to lay off.”

School library positions are among the first to be considered for layoffs. “I am concerned about what will happen to the children,” said Grace Murphy Jenkins, a librarian at DeJean Middle School in Richmond. “This will have a ripple effect throughout the district and leave a lot of children stranded.”

Though the current tax does not expire until 2009, the district must give employees layoff notices in March, Pfeifer said, forcing officials to make difficult decisions quickly. That means officials must make the difficult decisions right away.

The school board will hold an emergency meeting next week to discuss how to proceed after Tuesday’s thumping of the tax measure, which would have brought sports, school supplies, counselors, class-size reductions and more beginning in July 2009.