CITY HALL — Elected officials and staff from City Hall and the school district met last Friday to begin conceptualizing how to honor voters’ wishes to give half of Measure Y funding to Santa Monica and Malibu schools.

Measure Y, approved in November by just over 60 percent of voters, will impose a half-cent transaction-use tax beginning April 1, 2011. A companion measure called YY demonstrated voters’ desire for half of that money to be given to the local school district.

The question then became how.

“We think there are legal barriers between revenue sharing between taxing agencies,” said City Manager Rod Gould.

That means that City Hall cannot simply hand what is expected to be between $5 million and $6 million to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District without a mechanism that ensures that the district isn’t getting something for nothing.

In that spirit, Mayor Richard Bloom, Mayor Pro-Tem Gleam Davis and Gould from City Hall met with Board of Education President Jose Escarce, Vice President Ben Allen and Superintendent Tim Cuneo to determine an outline of what such a tool might look like.

The group met under the auspices of the annual meeting required by the Joint Use Agreement, which guarantees the district $7.8 million this year alone from City Hall for the use of elementary and middle school sports facilities.

It may be a sign of things to come — to justify giving the schools half of the Measure Y funding, city officials hope to secure an agreement whereby they would gain access to other fields and parks held by the school district for other after-school uses.

The meeting was an opportunity to get the parameters of the new agreement hashed out so that staff could flesh out the details before the final agreement goes before the City Council and Board of Education for approval, Allen said.

“Staff of both the city and the district will be moving forward on the right lines, guided by the leadership of the board and council,” Allen said. “Nothing is ever guaranteed until it’s approved by the council or the board.”

The possible agreement goes in line with the board’s commitment to giving the broader community access to its facilities, Allen said.

No specifics on which facilities will be included or how City Hall will value that rental to make up the approximately $6 million have been proposed at this time, Davis said.

“We believe we’re getting access to facilities that compensate us for the money that we’re giving to the school district,” Davis said. “No one’s worked it out on the per-square-foot basis.”

Access to the fields represents more than money, she said.

“It’s the ability to provide access to a wide range of programs. It’s not ‘This square of grass is worth X,’ but instead the invaluable ability to provide increased programing to youth and adults on sites that are owned by the school district for programs run by the city,” Davis said.

Also included in the talks was a very concrete monetary value, however.

The school district is requesting that City Hall front it a portion of Measure Y funding before it’s collected.

As it stands, the new tax will come into effect April 1. Those revenues will then be transferred to the State Board of Equalization, and then disbursed back to City Hall.

That puts the date that City Hall will actually benefit from the tax money far past the April 1 collection date.

Normally, City Hall would get the tax money from the state on a bi-monthly basis, and then cut the revenues in half and give the school district its portion.

However, recent cuts from the state have put the school district in a bind for its 2010-2011 budget, Gould said, and the district is requesting money immediately to balance its budget.

“We’re proposing to make a best estimate of what we think the tax will generate, and will advance the school half of that,” Gould said.

None of the points brought up Friday will go into effect until after both the Board of Education and the City Council approve the agreement.

It’s expected to appear before both of those bodies in April.

ashley@www.smdp.com

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