School District Boundaries in Oakley – Why the mess?

Reposted from November of 2008

School districts are a form of a Special-purpose district. Their boundaries are delineated to encompass certain geographical areas, which are not necessarily the same boundaries as the surrounding cities or towns. Districts are governed by a school board, members of which are elected by popular vote and are, basically, a legislative body, often thought of as being coequal and similar to a City Council or the County Board of Supervisors. The board has many powers including taxation and eminent domain. They appoint a superintendent who functions as the district’s chief executive to carry out the day-to-day administration.

The City of Oakley is served by three school districts. The Oakley Union Elementary School District, serving students in grade K-8, and consists of five elementary schools and two middle schools. Their boundary area covers most of Oakley and a very small part of Knightsen. The Liberty Union High School District has five high schools, one in Oakley. Liberty’s boundary includes most of Oakley, all of Brentwood, Knightsen, Bethel Island, Discovery Bay, Bryon and any unincorporated areas in between. The boundaries of the Antioch Unified School District with 14 elementary schools, including the newly opened Orchard Park in Oakley, four middle schools, one charter school and six high schools, covers all of Antioch and everything west of Empire Road, west on Main St (Highway 4) to Big Break and then north on Big Break to the river in Oakley.

The Antioch School District has had a long presence in Western Oakley. In 1883 the Live Oak School District was established to accommodate the population of what was known as the “sand country”. Two years later, on a lot about a mile and a half from the village of Oakley (now the Live Oak Community Church at the corner of Live Oak and Highway 4,), a former house was remodeled and transformed into a school which was named Live Oak. One teacher was in charge of approximately 25 students. In 1903, at a cost of $4000.00, a new school building was constructed on the same site. Somewhat later, when another teacher was needed, the one large room was divided into two rooms. The enrollment swelled to over 40 students.

In 1908, as a result of population increases, the Live Oak School District joined with the Antioch, Black Diamond (now Pittsburg), Somersville and Nortonville school districts to approve the first joint communities bond and raised $20,000 to build Riverview High School, the first high school in Contra Costa County. In 1921 a special election was held to consolidate the Live Oak and Antioch School Districts later morphing into the Antioch Unified School District.

Continuing their presence in Oakley the Antioch School District and the City of Antioch created the Antioch Area Public Facilities Financing Agency’s Community Facilities District 1989-1 (“CFD”), in 1989, commonly known as the Antioch Mello Roos District. The CFD was formed to finance five elementary schools, two middle schools, one high school and a 100 acre community park.

Mello Roos is a taxing methodology developed in 1982 to allow county, city, special district, or joint powers authority to bypass the property tax limitation established under Prop 13. Instead of increasing the tax on the value of your property, which is prohibited under Prop 13, the tax is calculated based on the “livable” square footage of the home, excluding the garage, rounded up to the next highest increment of 100. This tax can only be used to finance streets, sewer system and other basic infrastructure, police, fire, school, ambulance, and other cultural facilities. The CFD-89 rate is approximately $0.61 per square foot for homes in the City of Antioch and $0.48 for Oakley homes within the District (homes west of Empire). The majority of homes are in the new areas of Southeast Antioch, but also included are other new areas of Antioch as well as parts of Oakley which are within the Antioch Unified School District boundaries and were built after 1988. The tax is used to pay principal and interest on construction bonds that have been sold. These bonds mature at different times, from now all the way out to the year 2025. The newly opened Orchard Park School on Live Oak was not built using Mello-Roos funds.

Everyone in Oakley living west of Empire is in the Antioch School District and within the Mello-Roos boundaries. If your home was built before 1988 or if the builder paid off the bonds and included it in the price of your new home you will not see a Mello-Roos line item on your property tax bill.

The Mello-Roos tax may be the largest hurdle to leap when the issue of school district reorganization is broached. A boundary change will probably necessitate that the Mello-Roos bond debt be paid off. If the Antioch School District were to let the “Oakley Orphans” secede the remaining bond payers would be left to pay the debt. In all probability, they would opt to sue the School District to prevent this from happening. Therefore, it would be beneficial for the ensuing steps in the process if this issue were addressed first. Further steps include but are not limited to: filing a petition for boundary changes, approval from the County Superintendent and an election.

Once the Mello-Roos hurdle has been crossed there are two ways to start the process of transferring territory from one district to another. The first is a citizen initiated petition which requires signatures from at least 25% of the registered Oakley voters in the territory to be transferred. The second is also a citizen initiated petition which requires signatures from at least 10% of the registered voters in the entire school district. When all of the requirements are met there will be a proposition placed on the ballot for a vote by those in the entire school district. The complete process is detailed at the California Department of Education website. Chapter 5 contains the information you’ll need to proceed.

A question often asked of City Council members is, “Why don’t you do something to effect the boundary changes?” Over the years we have had dozens of meetings with the School Districts to encourage some sort of boundary adjustment, but in the end the City Council has absolutely no control over the situation. We can plead, cajole and make polite suggestions, however it is up to the respective elected school boards to work out the complicated details of any boundary adjustments. Frankly, the details of a change are so complicated and expensive that it is highly unlikely that the school boards will make any changes in the near future.

2015-16 Public Schools Directory

Contra Costa County School Districts Map 

About Kevin

Councilmember - City of Oakley, Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-POSCO INDUSTRIES, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Commissioner - Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Board Member - Tri Delta Transit, Transplan, San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority and RD 2137, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction
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6 Responses to School District Boundaries in Oakley – Why the mess?

  1. Shiree says:

    Oops Heather I messed my email up it’s

  2. Shiree says:

    Hi, Heather who left the comment in 2015 if u get this reply I live end of Antioch/Oakley border, my son goes to orchard, and I’m looking for home in freedom high district so he can go there, I refuse to send him to Antioch or deer valley high, I’m closer to freedom but the boundaries are few homes the rest is water and swamp I am so willing to help you out with this petition I’ve read about. I will go house to house. Please contact me at shiree Conrad@Yahoo.COM. thanks

  3. Heather says:

    I’ve contacted Contra Costa County Tax Assessor’s office. The aforementioned Mello Roos are set to expire tax year 2015-2016. As such, we need to get the ball rolling NOW to petition for boundary changes. KEEP OAKLEY KIDS IN OAKLEY SCHOOLS!!!

  4. Pingback: Florida Districts Spend Less on High-Poverty Schools «

  5. Jon LaBarge says:

    A history lesson of school district boundaries does nothing for what is taking place in this city today. It may be “well said” but it does NOTHING for the overcrowding that the OAKLEY CITY COUNCIL is placing on us “Oakley Orphans” who have no choice but to send our children to Orchard Park School. I guarantee that I would not have bought in this town had I known of the ridiculous high density housing that was approved just one month before I bought my home in 2005 (which went undisclosed by the realtor). And now the city is allowing another 3 towers to be built in the same complex, which is going to place even more children into Orchard Park school. My kids are already suffering the burden of 32+ kids in their classes and now the Oakley Citry Council is making it worse for them. You should all be ashamed of yourselves. You knew going in what kind of burden this would place on Oakley so you all opted to allow the building in a place where it meant the least burden to the city…..somewhere that Antioch would have to figure out the schooling. Way to pass the buck, guys and gals. I promise that when the current council’s re-election cycles come up, I will do everything in my power to see to it that their power is taken away.

  6. Well said Great information, keep up the great work!

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