School Bond Measures Have Poured Millions From Malibu Pockets Into Santa Monica

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SMMUSD Administrative Offices

As school separation talks have turned contentious in recent months, it helps to dig into the financial information provided by the district to see what separation could mean for Malibu.

When school bond Measure BB passed in 2006, it meant Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) voters had approved issuing up to $268 million in general obligation bonds for facility improvement projects. Six years later, the passage of school bond Measure ES in 2012 authorized an additional $385 milloin in general obligation bonds for school district facilities improvement.

According to Craig Foster, the only Malibu representative on the SMMUSD School Board, Malibu property taxes comprise 32 to 36 percent of SMMUSD’s total property tax revenues, depending on the year.

“This means Malibu paid 32 to 36 percent of all SMMUSD bonds (prior to 2018’s Measure M),” Foster wrote to TMT. “That would be Measures BB and ES, especially. For both bonds, Malibu was promised by the school board a minimum 20 percent allocation of the bond spending [even though Malibu contributed 32 – 36 percent of the money]. That 20 percent was also understood to be, and was, a ceiling. So, Malibu received about 20 percent of the funds.”

“Therefore, 10-15 percent of the total money spent under BB and ES was raised from Malibu, but spent in Santa Monica,” Foster continued. “Measure ES was $385 million and BB was $268 million, totaling $653 million. Ten to 15 percent of that is $65.3 million to $97.95 million dollars raised in Malibu, but spent in Santa Monica.”

When asked why Malibu would agree to such an arrangement—kicking in 32 to 36 percent of its property tax revenues, but only getting 20 percent back, Foster responded, “Because the school board decides how/where to spend the bond money. And six or seven of seven school board members are from Santa Monica because they have 86 percent of the voters. This is absolute ground zero of Malibu’s need for local control.” In other words: Malibu simply did not have a say.

One note, wrote Foster, “is that Malibu passed its own bond in 2018 (Measure M), and it’s 100 percent Malibu money that by law will be spent 100 percent in Malibu. The issuance and sale of general obligation bonds for SMMUSD capital facilities improvement purposes is now being done separately for Malibu and Santa Monica.” 

So prior to 2018, somewhere between $65.3 to $97.95 million raised from Malibu’s bond money went toward improvements in Santa Monica schools.