CITY HALL — A $385 million school bond measure that will appear on the November ballot in Santa Monica has one more institutional endorser — the City Council.
The council voted unanimously Tuesday to support Measure ES at the behest of Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis and Councilmember Terry O’Day, proponents of the measure which would fund improvements to aging facilities in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.
Under the terms of the bond, homeowners would pay $185 per year on average. Renters would pay roughly $16 per year.
“There have been studies done that show the quality of facilities in schools do affect in a positive manner student achievement in the classroom,” Davis said. “It will not only be a safer, better environment, but actually will lead to improvements in classroom performance.”
Supporters of the local schools believe that the bond is critical to bring in new technology, improve learning facilities and even make the schools safer.
Fire alarms and seismic retrofits fall into the list of potential fixes that the bond would likely fund at a time when money to make needed repairs is no longer flowing from the state.
According to a districtwide assessment, school facilities throughout Santa Monica and Malibu have over $1 billion worth of needed repairs and improvements.
“The capital needs of the district are great, and this is an opportunity for us to revamp a lot of the facilities, particularly in Santa Monica High School,” said Board of Education President Ben Allen.
Attempts by the district to restore facilities at Samohi were dealt a blow when it lost $56 million promised through the Santa Monica Redevelopment Agency, an entity that took property tax money that would otherwise have gone to schools and other public entities and was used instead to repair blight and build capital projects.
A decision of the Legislature and California Supreme Court ended redevelopment agencies in February, beginning a long and complicated unwind that forced the reevaluation of projects, including the improvements of sports facilities at the high school.
The proposed bond would likely cover technology and academic facilities over sports, Allen said.
“As you know we’re all facing a terrible economic crisis and it’s impacted us across the board,” Allen said. “This is going to help us on a lot of levels.”
There are some who fear that the bond will suffer from a case of bad timing.
It will share the ballot with two measures, propositions 30 and 38, both of which will raise taxes to pay for schools statewide.
The first, Proposition 30, was put forward by Gov. Jerry Brown. If it does not pass, SMMUSD will see a $5 million cut in its state funding, school district officials said.
Proposition 38, supported by activist Molly Munger, would also raise taxes to support the schools, although school officials do not know exactly how much it would enhance local coffers.
If either of those measures fail but the bond passes, some members of local parent groups have expressed concern that it would hurt their chances of passing a parcel tax in the future to help offset the losses to the schools.
City Hall has a long history of supporting the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.
It voted to support Measure BB, a 2006 bond worth $268 million that has helped to build a new school at the Edison Language Academy and a new Science and Technology Building at Samohi.
The council also endorsed measures Y and YY, a half-cent sales tax increase and a companion measure that allowed the community to support giving half of the money raised through the tax to public schools.