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Santa Monica-Malibu School Board Looks at Potential $485 Million Bond Measure for November Ballot


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

May 1, 2018 -- The Santa Monica-Malibu School Board is looking at a record $485 million bond measure for the November ballot, although a spokesperson for the district said discussion has just begun.

Gail Pinsker, the spokesperson for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD), said the $485 million is based on a new survey by consultants which found 66 percent support for such a bond -- the largest in district history if passed.

“It’s not necessarily what the board would approve” for the November 6 election, she said. “This is really the first discussion.”

The potential bonding goes before the school board at its Thursday meeting, which will be at Malibu City Council Chambers, 23825 Stuart Ranch Road.

Public business begins at 5:30 p.m., although the board convenes briefly at 4:30 p.m. before heading into closed-door executive session for personnel and litigation matters.

Pinsker said the board is also considering two separate bonds for the election -- one for Santa Monica schools and another for Malibu schools.

There is no crossover, she said, so if one school bond fails at the polls, no funding from an attendant bond would be allowed.

If the board opts to put a $485 bond before voters, it would be the third such bond in a dozen years, raising the collective bounty to a potential $1.138 billion for school improvements in that period.

Thursday’s discussion by the board is based on the findings by consultants tasked with gauging voter response to potential bonds.

“Santa Monica bond seems likely to pass with initial support at 66% at $485 million,” according to the findings of Goodwin Simon Strategic Research, which will be presented to the board at the meeting.

“This is well ahead of the 54% support found in SM in the 2012 bond survey for a $385 million bond,” the report said.

That bond, Measure ES on the ballot, was successful.

But with Malibu’s separation from the district underway, the survey also looked at options for a separate Malibu-facilities only bond.

It found the possibility of a $250 million bond for Malibu schools only would fail, but that if the amount was scaled back to $150 million, support in the survey rose to 66 percent.

The top funding priorities of respondents were “repairing aging schools and improving educational quality,” the report said.

Among supporters, renters led the way at 71 percent, along with younger homeowners, at 74 percent, the report said.

A $485 million bond for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District would cost an average of $27 million annually, with estimated taxpayer levies of $0.04/$100 of assessed value, the consultants said.

It recommends that the measure direct the money be used to “improve, repair, and modernize outdated Santa Monica school facilities including classrooms, science labs, music and art facilities, and instructional technology; fixing roofs and restrooms, and improve fire and other safety systems.”

Voters approved Measure BB in 2006, which granted $268 million in bonding to be used for improvements, including those to technology.

In 2012, voters approved Measure ES, a $385 million bond which also upgraded technology and included big renovations for Santa Monica High School.

Both measures ended up entailing cost overruns, according to fiscal oversight reports. For BB, the shortfall was about $31 million.

The main components of ES also ended up costlier than originally anticipated, according to a February update by Citizens Bonds Oversight Committee.

The update said the $180 million earmarked for Santa Monica High School in ES was $230 million by this February.

Bond funding for Malibu schools under ES grew from the original $77 million to $97 million, the update said.

A variety of other projects to be paid through ES also jumped, from the initial $93.56 million to $109.7 million as of February, the update said.

The SMMUSD has 16 schools, with a stagnant-to-declining enrollment of fewer than 11,000 students.


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