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Panel Reaches Proposed Agreement on Santa Monica-Malibu School District Split  

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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

February 28, 2017 -- After 11 months of sometimes rocky talks, the committee negotiating Malibu’s split from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District said Monday it has agreed to terms of separation it will present to the School Board.

The six-member committee -- which is evenly divided between SMMUSD and Malibu representatives -- said the agreement hammered out over 38 meetings allows reorganization to occur “without significant adverse impact” on the fiscal health of SMMUSD.

It uses a “Revenue Neutrality Formula” to do so, according to the committee’s report, which was posted Monday on the district’s website.

The report wades into such complex waters as apportioning funding, expenses, bond debt, maintenance costs and liabilities and dealing with the ongoing controversy triggered by the discovery of chemicals at Malibu schools.

Approval of the recommendations was unanimous.

A special meeting to study the committee’s report is scheduled for Tuesday, March 7, at 5:30 p.m. in district office board room, 1651 16th Street, Santa Monica, said SMMUSD spokesperson Gail Pinsker.

The Malibu Unification Negotiations Committee will present its recommendations to the school board. Following this meeting, the committee will hold outreach sessions in Malibu and Santa Monica for more public comment. Dates are still pending.

Aside from the school district, terms of the split also need approval from the City of Malibu and the state.

Malibu parents have been pushing for years to separate from SMMUSD, arguing they are under-represented. About 84 percent of the district’s 11,003 K-through-12th-grade students attend the 12 schools in Santa Monica. The remaining 16 percent are in the four schools located in Malibu.

The discovery three years ago of potentially hazardous chemicals in Malibu schools added considerably to the anger of Malibu parents, who are especially unhappy with the district’s response.

The school board agreed in 2015 to establish a committee that would delve into the issues involved in a Malibu split, specifically asking whether the separation could be achieved without financial harm.

The board is expected to vote for the proposal to split the district. A final decsion would then be made by the State Board of Education and/or the State legislature.

SMMUSD, which is currently putting together a budget for the coming fiscal year, has a general fund budget of $171.2 million, including a $20.7 million fund balance, for the 2016-2017 year.

The next regular SMMUSD school board meeting will be on Thursday, March 2, 2017, at 5:30 pm at the district office.

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