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Malibu Council Proposes County Set Financial Terms for Split

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By Jorge Casuso

April 14, 2021 -- The Malibu City Council on Wednesday proposed that the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) and its consultant "determine fair and equitable financial terms" for Malibu's split and asked the School District to agree to be bound by those terms.

The proposal was unanimously approved during a special Council meeting held three days before LACOE’s Committee on School District Organization holds the first public hearing Saturday on Malibu's petition to break off from the unified district ("Malibu Split Headed for April Showdown," March 22, 2021).

The Malibu Council also asked that the District "go on record that it supports Malibu’s petition," which was agreed to in principle by both parties before a battle broke out late last year over the financial terms ("Malibu District Split Hits Major Roadblock," October 29, 2020).

“I am encouraged by the District’s acknowledgment that it is time to separate our schools," Malibu Mayor Mikke Pierson said in a statement issued after the meeting.

"Despite the accusations made by SM-MUSD, the City has repeatedly made it clear that we do not want to see any student harmed by the long-overdue separation of this discontinuous school district,” Pierson said.

"We urge the District to agree and go with us hand-in-hand to LACOE on April 17 so that we can move forward with the separation that we both agree is necessary," he said.

"We want to move as expeditiously as possible so that no more Malibu students are harmed by the lack of local control over Malibu schools.”

District officials did not provide a comment by deadline.

The School Board will hold a special closed meeting Friday morning to discuss the Malibu split, officials said.

Malibu's “Best and Final Offer” to the District was rejected by the School Board during a closed session April 8, with Malibu's sole representative casting the dissenting vote.

The following day, in an open letter explaining the decision, District Superintendent Ben Drati said the opposition "is based primarily on the methodology utilized by the City of Malibu that results in an inequitable separation" ("OPINION -- Critical Time Regarding Malibu Unification Efforts," April 9, 2021).

"We have calculated that post-separation, per pupil revenue for Santa Monica-area students would experience a 21 percent reduction after 10 years and remain below where revenues would have been without a split," Drati wrote.

"In other words, over the next 10 years, their proposal would result in the need to cut nearly $30 million from programs serving Santa Monica students. Rather than see revenue increase over the next 10 years, revenues that support Santa Monica students would decrease."

Malibu officials counter that their proposed tax-sharing agreement "would transfer property tax revenue from Malibu to Santa Monica for up to 10 years in the event SM-MUSD’s per-pupil funding dips below its current level.

"In addition, the proposal also identified $50 million in other local funding (grants, sales taxes, rental income, redevelopment funds, and parent/business donations) that SM-MUSD receives each year beyond state education funding and property tax sources which Santa Monica will be able to retain in separation," Malibu officials wrote on Wednesday.

Last month, the Santa Monica City Council unanimously voted to only support Malibu's separation from the School District if the division of revenues are "fair and just" for Santa Monica students ("Santa Monica Council Places Conditions on Backing Malibu Split," March 25, 2021).

Pierson said Malibu officials "welcome the school finance experts at LACOE and their consultants at School Services of California to establish the financial terms of separation so that the financial terms are fair to all."

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