SMMUSD HDQTRS — Money from the dismantling of redevelopment agencies is finally trickling in and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is getting just under $3 million, cash that was unexpected, district officials said, and is sorely needed as the district tries to recover from years of reduced funding from the state.

Redevelopment agencies were dissolved last year after state legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown desperately tried to close a significant budget deficit in Sacramento. Brown’s budget dictated that the money held by redevelopment agencies help pay for services such as education and public safety. Property taxes funded redevelopment agencies, with the purpose of revitalizing blighted areas. Officials in City Hall used the money to help build affordable housing and make upgrades to aging facilities.

The school district received $8.5 million in local property taxes that officials weren’t anticipating when they made estimates back in June, said Jan Maez, chief financial officer for the district.

“It could be that property tax collections are up. More money is always good. I can’t say that it’s a bad thing,” Maez said. “This wasn’t money we expected to be coming [in] every single year.”

The district has to give the state $5.6 million out of the $8.5 million it received, but Maez said that doesn’t mean the district has to write a check this minute. The $5.6 million is the basic aid fair share, or the amount that gets returned to the state when a district’s property taxes exceed its revenue entitlement, she said.

“What will happen is the state will reduce the amount it pays the district and that will most likely happen next spring,” Maez said. “They will deduct it from future money.”

She said the influx of cash is most likely a “one-time occurrence,” however, the school board earlier this month hired a consultant, the Dolinka Group, to study the issue and determine what school officials can expect so they can better predict how much they’ll have to spend on education. The contract is not to exceed $11,000.

Maez said there are a lot of needs in the district, but there are no specific plans for what to do with the money. The district is going to have to add teachers or other staff because the number of students in some grade levels is on the rise.

Some money may also go into maintaining the district’s financial reserves to protect against a sudden dip in funding, she said.

“When you have an unexpected downturn, you have the money and you don’t have to dramatically cut your budget,” Maez said.

 

ameera@smdp.com

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