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OPINION: Remaining Santa Monica School District Will Suffer in a Malibu Separation, Superintendent Says
November 7, 2017
Dear parents, staff and community members,
The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education has taken the interest of the Malibu community to separate from our district into a Malibu Unified School District (MUSD) very seriously.
During the past two years, the School Board has focused on the financial aspects of this request, seeking to determine whether there is an approach that would leave the remaining Santa Monica district financially whole while providing Malibu with the local control it seeks.
If SMMUSD were to split into two districts, there would be a negative fiscal impact on the remaining Santa Monica portion of the district. The two reports (MUNC and SSC) posit approaches to address the negative fiscal impact on the remaining Santa Monica Unified School District (SMUSD) if separation were to occur.
Neither the MUNC nor the SSC approach eliminate the fiscal impact though both reports offer ways to diminish the impact. While the formulas are different, both the MUNC and SSC proposals suggest a transition period immediately following separation into two districts during which revenues would remain substantially close to what they would have been in the current district and reductions in current operations would not likely be required.
However, once the transition period ends, the Santa Monica-only district would no longer have the revenues it would have had if SMMUSD remained as a district.
Diminished revenues result in diminished purchasing power, which will have consequences for new and enhanced programs that the current district is contemplating and for the District’s ability to pay increasing expenses and meet rising financial obligations. At the same time, once the transition period ends, the Malibu-only portion of the district will have substantially greater revenues per student.
The School Board discussed Malibu unification for more than six hours and heard 45 public comments both in support and in objection to separation. The October 30 meeting offered an opportunity for Board discussion and no vote was taken at this meeting.
During discussion, Board members expressed concern that the fiscal impact remains too great on Santa Monica under the formulas as proposed while also articulating a desire to explore potential proposals that would offer Malibu the local control they seek in a manner that does not have a substantial negative fiscal impact on the remaining Santa Monica district.
Consistent with those concerns, the Board directed staff to explore two potential directions (Plan A and Plan B). To carry out the Board’s exploration of these conceptual plans, the following will occur:
The petition, as submitted, does not provide any mechanism for addressing the fiscal impacts of separation on a remaining SMUSD. A preliminary hearing on the petition will be scheduled in December or January.
If Malibu does show interest, then the Board can direct staff to begin those conversations in greater depth. If not, then the Board will examine the additional information and data from SSC (Plan B) and determine whether an extended SSC revenue sharing formula offers a potentially workable solution.
Student outcomes are dependent on funding increases over time, and districts must prepare for possible fluctuations in the economy that may result in reduced revenue from property taxes and other revenue sources.
At this time, it is clear that the remaining SMUSD will suffer in a separation, so I must balance that with the interests of Malibu to separate.
I’m hopeful that with all of us working together we can find a solution that is amenable to families in both communities and will serve both Santa Monica and Malibu well for decades to come.
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