SMMUSD School Board Places Construction Bond Measure On Ballot

Monday, 13 Aug 2012, 2:20:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

Bond measures are no strangers to the California electorate, and Santa Monica voters will have a multi-million dollar bond to contemplate that would help local schools cover construction expenses.

Come November 6, local voters will decide whether the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) will have $385 million at its disposal to help pay for construction costs. Board members approved the proposed bond measured earlier this month in a 6-to-1 vote.

The bond, which requires 55 percent of votes in favor, would directly impact at least three projects within the district, with the SMMUSD indicating it plans to spend an estimated $100 million on a science and technology building at Samohi, new classrooms at Lincoln Middle School, and a new library at Malibu High School.

If approved, Santa Monica’s homeowners would be subject to an increase in their annual tax bill and also mark the first time in six years a bond measure for area schools. In 2006, Santa Monica and Malibu voters approved $286 million in bonds for area schools.

The new ballot measure comes on the heels of a pair of taxes Santa Monica approved for to help fund the school district in 2010. In that year’s November election, voters overwhelmingly approved Measures Y and YY, which increased the local sales tax by a half-cent in order to raise enough money to partially subsidize the SMMUSD’s budget.

Of course, a lot has changed since then, what with Gov. Jerry Brown’s successful campaign to eliminate redevelopment funds drastically altering the way City Hall and the school district allocates annual dollars. According to the district, prior to the extinction of Santa Monica’s redevelopment funds, the board had expected to use money from Sacramento to fund its anticipated projects.

While Measures Y and YY were parcel taxes, this year’s ballot measure limits expenditures to be spent only on capital improvements, such as new buildings and infrastructure. Money from parcel taxes may be allocated to a wider range of budget items, such as administrative expenses, operations, and salaries.

The measure, if approved, would allow the school district to borrow $385 million against the financial markets in order to fund various capital projects, such as $54 million for a new science and technology building at Samohi and $30 million for Malibu High’s new library and other campus improvements.

In terms of the tax liability assessed to Santa Monica homeowners as a result of the bond, title-holders may not be charged for than $60 per year for every $100,000 of their home’s value. If a home is worth $500,000, for example, the most a homeowner maybe assessed under state law is $300 in annual tax.

Since the measure also affects Malibu homeowners, that city’s voters will also vote on the matter.

The general election is set for Nov. 6. Beyond the race for the White House and Senate, also up for grabs are four city council seats and positions on the SMMUSD, Rent Control Board, and Santa Monica College Board of Trustees. Also, Henry Waxman will be seeking reelection to represent Santa Monica in the newly created 33rd Congressional district.

Three weeks ago, council members approved a ballot measure proposing a change to the City Charter governing rent control policy.

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