The Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education unanimously agreed last week to begin the process to form dual School Facilities Improvement Districts. The formation of the dual facilities districts for both Santa Monica and Malibu would allow schools within both communities to have more self-sufficiency in many areas, such as facility planning and funding.
Carey Upton, chief operations officer for the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District, led the presentation describing why the district felt the need for two separate facilities districts.
Upton said that with rising bids and prices for modernization efforts with projects such as construction and PCB abatement, the school district considered getting a bond.
“Challenges in previous bonds was between the relationships between the Santa Monica and Malibu communities,” Upton said.
Upton said questions the community asked about a potential for dual districts included tax levels and how bonds would work with the imminent split of the soon-to-be two school districts.
A staff member with Upton said money that comes from a bond in one particular facilities improvement district could only be used in that district; all Malibu bonds spent in and funded by Malibu, all Santa Monica bonds spent in and funded by Santa Monica.
“Other than that, they operate like all of our other bonds. Not a lot to look into,” the staff member said.
The process to create the dual facilities districts is a lengthy one. To create the two, the district must ask the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors with a resolution requesting that supervisors allow the school district to create the two facilities improvement districts.
“We’ll be working with a bond attorney and city staff to set this up, work this out,” Upton said.
Then, there would be a vote to pass the resolution. Typically, counties have a “you make the request and it happens” standing order, but, “LA County likes to listen to and vote on each one,” according to Upton.
County supervisors would hear the resolution “end of the month, beginning of next, somewhere around May 1,” with district staff coming back to the board May 3 to pass a resolution of intent (intent to create the facilities improvement district in Malibu).
On May 17, they’d come back to the board to ask to create a resolution of intent for Santa Monica.
The two resolutions are split up by design—one meeting in Malibu, one in Santa Monica—Upton said, to give both communities time with the resolutions.
“Once we start this process, we’ll be on two different parallel paths. We want to make sure we’re including voters on both sides,” Upton said.
On June 12, the school district asked for a resolution of formation to finally form the facilities districts.
On July 19, “that would be the moment you call for elections,” Upton said. It would go on the ballot Nov. 6.
Creation of the facilities districts doesn’t “lock you in” to using them, Upton said, until July 19 when a vote will take place to put it on the ballot.
“We feel there’s a lot more discussion with our communities to talk about this, but to get in line to start all of this up, that’s why we’re starting with this moment before we’ve even done a lot of feasibility, to start us down the road to get this on the ballot,” Upton said.
Upton said the staff has begun polling. Schools Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati has formed a feasibility committee, having had one meeting with another scheduled before a May 3 board meeting.
“When we meet with [the board] May 3, we’ll also discuss what that polling is and get direction to move forward towards a bond. There’s lots of different steps along the way, of course we need our community with us, we need to work even more to communicate what’s working and great with previous bonds, what we’re in the process of doing, and that we have substantial need.”
The board unanimously passed the resolution.
A version of this story previously ran in the Santa Monica Daily Press.