Separate School Bonds to Appear on November Ballot

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SMMUSD

It’s official: Malibu residents will be voting on whether or not to approve a $195 million school facilities improvement bond on Nov. 6. And for the first time, there will be two separate bonds—one for Santa Monica, one for Malibu. 

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District School Board unanimously voted, 7-0, for both bonds to appear and be voted upon in November at its last meeting on Thursday, July 19.

According to the resolution, if passed, the average annual tax rate (estimated “based on a projection of assessed valuations” from the time of filing) is $28 per $100,000 of assessed value. An independent citizens’ oversight committee will also be established to oversee funds for projects outlined in the resolution.

“I hate to turn to Craig, but I’m going to right now. I understand the earnest desire to do two separate measures. And I’m committed to that as well. I just want to know—has the conversation been held in-depth in Malibu at what’s at stake? So I should feel comfortable that you guys have gone deep into this and wrestled and …,” Board Vice President Jon Kean asked Board Member Craig Foster, who confirmed nonverbally that Malibu was ready.

A 55 percent majority will be needed to pass the school bond, per California law.

Representatives from Goodwin Simon Strategic Research first presented the facilities improvement bond to the school board in early May. A total of 90 Malibu people were polled for their survey. At the time, Malibu support was put at 62 percent when the original $250 million bond was lowered to $150 million. 

In June, mail—including a survey—was sent out to residents in the Santa Monica-Malibu school district; the school district received more than 600 responses. Of those responses, nearly 80 percent of respondents have children in the school system.  

“The Malibu respondents … Not a surprise, that of those who responded, nearly all of them ranked removing hazardous materials as the top and extremely important,” Jared Boigon, of TBWB Strategies, said. “That’s not a surprise. But it’s always interesting to see a bar chart that goes to 95 percent, you never see that, actually. Very unusual.”

This, of course, stems from Malibu’s more than decade-long struggle with polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) in its schools (specifically at MHS). Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-related education as well as fire safety were also at the forefront of Malibu residents’ concerns.

The last bond measure—Measure ES—passed in 2012, with $375 million to go toward improving school facilities and learning in both cities. According to SMMUSD Chief Operations Officer Carey Upton, the schools “still have significant needs.”

“We’re also in the process of relooking at Malibu High School, with a plan to take a complete look at that high school, potentially reorganize it so we’re hiring architects to create a master plan for that,” Upton said. “That high school no longer really supports the learning that we’re doing.”

He later added that there was “a real need to separate the middle school and high school activities in some way,” and to support Malibu’s middle school students.

Currently, the library, three science labs, entrance, administration building and middle school are under construction at MHS.

The school district also has plans to remove old portable classrooms, some of which have been at SMMUSD schools for decades. Webster Elementary School will have three removed, while Juan Cabrillo Elementary School will have four removed.

Safety was also on board members’ minds. Upton said that safety at all schools would have to be examined, emphasizing it’s “something that we need to spend some time, attention and funds on.” 

Potential changes include changing fences and gates, taking a look at security cameras, examining entry points and going over emergency communication.

Toward the end of his presentation, Upton added that the proposed funds would not be enough to provide for all facility needs.

For its final item, the school board officially amended its original 2013 agreement with the Santa Monica Education Foundation (formerly Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation). 

The agreement came into play when the board voted to centralize fundraising for Malibu and Santa Monica schools—a decision that angered many Malibu parents. 

In a role reversal, the school board unanimously voted, 5-0, to separate fundraising between the two cities’ schools at its June 28 meeting after much discussion. In the 2019-20 fiscal year, SMEF will solely be fundraising for Santa Monica.

Malibu’s fundraising vehicle has yet to be named; MHS booster club, The Shark Fund, may be open to taking up the fundraising mantle for all local schools, as confirmed in a phone call with The Shark Fund chairwoman Gardia Fox.