More Taxes Considered for Santa Monica, Malibu Schools

Wednesday, 25 May 2011, 1:58:00 AM

Hannah Heineman

Continuing concerns about the future of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s budget deficit prompted the school board to reconvene the district’s citizens committee to examine the feasibility of an emergency parcel tax for the November 2011 ballot. The committee will also study the feasibility of a future bond measure to help complete all or a portion of the district’s capital improvement program.

The 35-member committee will make a recommendation to the board on the emergency parcel tax by August 10, and their recommendation on the feasibility of a bond measure will be made in the spring of 2012. They also will be able to spend up to $50,000 to poll the voters of Santa Monica and Malibu.

News of more voter-funded revenue for the district comes on the heels of the passage of Measures Y and YY, which were approved by Santa Monica voters in the November 2010 election. Measure Y increased the sales tax by a half-cent in Santa Monica, and is expected to fill the City's general fund revenue by $12 million annually. Measure YY expressed voters’ wishes that half of the money received from Measure Y be used to subsidize the school district.

At their May 19 meeting, board members emphasized that the reconvening of the committee was being done as a precautionary measure. “Given the range of possible reductions [due to the state budget crisis] it seems prudent to have people on this committee to think about this issue,” said board president Jose Escarce

“If we end up in a terrible situation the voters should have the opportunity to vote on a parcel tax,” said board member Oscar De la Torre.

Board member Nimish Patel emphasized that looking at these issues was important because “an institution like ours must think long term. We must have a contingency plan in case the worst happens.”

The board approved the committee membership in August of 2009. The board discussed the fact that two members of the board, Laurie Lieberman and Nimish Patel, are now members of the school board so they can no longer be on the committee. Several board members discussed trying to recruit additional committee members from Malibu or from applicants to the district’s financial oversight committee.

At the same meeting, the board also approved a reorganization plan for the district’s child development services for 2011-2012. The reorganization is being done because of a decrease in state funding for the program and will mean a reduction staff of 10.87 FTEs by July 3. These services include district pre-school programs and after school daycare. The state funding reductions include a 15 percent reduction of contract amounts, the reduction of eligibility from 75 percent of state median income to 70 percent, the ineligibility for 11 and 12 year olds to receive subsidy for childcare, and an increase of 10 percent in family fees based on a sliding scale.

Before the board voted on the reorganization plan, the district’s Chief Financial Officer Janice Maez commented, “This funding is more certain than others because it is actually based on actions the legislature has already taken.”

“This is potentially disseminating the future of our children. It’s so difficult to do this,” said board member Ralph Mechur.

Judo Abdo, who is the director of child development services, told the board, “Many tears have been shed in child development services over the last couple of months. It has been a very difficult time for us.”

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