The local Board of Education tonight is expected to give another extension to the committee assigned to explore separation of the Santa Monica-Malibu school district.

The school board established guidelines in December and then approved a 90-day period for negotiations between the Santa Monica and Malibu representatives of the six-member panel.

But the talks were doused amid political drama shortly thereafter. Santa Monica representatives worried about the potential impact of a voting rights lawsuit that was filed against the City of Santa Monica and halted discussions until Kevin Shenkman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, was replaced on the Malibu negotiating team.

The committee resumed talks in May and the next month was granted an extension to early September. The proposed extension would give the committee until Nov. 2 to sort out myriad issues, including environmental remediation, ongoing litigation and numerous financial complications.

The committee is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. tonight at Malibu City Hall, 23825 Stuart Ranch Road. The meeting overlaps with the school board meeting, which is slated for 5:30 p.m. at SMMUSD headquarters, 1651 16th St., in Santa Monica.

Bond allocations

The school board will hear an update on how Measure ES money is expected to be allocated.

The $385-million bond measure that voters approved in 2012 is funding major facility improvements and technological upgrades throughout the district, but specific determinations have not been made.

The school board has designated $180 million for renovations at Santa Monica High School, $77 million for Malibu schools and about $34 million for technology, but roughly $93 million remains unallocated.

Officials have said that Measure ES money will cover shortfalls from Measure BB, which voters backed in 2006.

Interim facility projects director Carey Upton and bond program manager Steve Massetti will present a working Measure ES budget to the board, according to an SMMUSD report.

Purchase orders

Legal fees dominate the list of new purchase orders that the school board is expected to approve tonight.

Of the nearly $1.97 million in expenses on the list, more than $625,000 has been set aside for legal counsel.

That figure includes an allocation of $300,000 to California-based Atkinson Andelson Loya Ruud & Romo for legal services associated with the district’s special education department. Several lawsuits have been filed against SMMUSD in recent years.

The list also includes $200,000 for Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost and $125,000 for Orbach Huff Suarez & Henderson for a variety of legal services.

The list of purchase orders measures anticipated expenses, not invoices, but school board members have previously complained that money had been spent before being formally approved.

The district has spent millions of dollars on consultants and legal fees since the discovery of polychlorinated biphenyls at Malibu schools a few years ago. A ruling is expected soon in a lawsuit filed by Malibu activists who are seeking the removal of all PCBs from school buildings.

jeff@smdp.com

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