CITY HALL — Over six months after voters approved a half-cent sales tax, City Hall approved a deal with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District to split the revenues in exchange for access to high school sports facilities.
A unanimous City Council vote ratified the long-awaited agreement that cemented the intent of two November ballot measures, Y and YY.
The first raised the transaction and use tax within Santa Monica city limits from 9.75 percent to 10.25 percent, and the second indicated to elected officials that voters wanted half of the proceeds of the tax to go to support education.
That advisory measure, YY, was not legally binding. Thursday night’s agreement, however, is.
SMMUSD and City Hall will split the funds from Measure Y for 10 years, with the option to extend the agreement for subsequent 10 year terms.
It also requires that negotiations start seven years into the first decade, to give the school time to adjust its budget forecasts, which the state requires in three-year intervals.
In return, the public will get access to fields, courts, the south gymnasium, pool, dance studio, storage space and parking lots at Santa Monica High School during non-school hours.
City Hall and the school district had to enter into the facilities-sharing agreement in order to have a mechanism to transfer money to the schools.
Rather than put an exact price tag on the facilities, however, both the district and City Hall accept that half of Measure Y funds, estimated at $5.7 million for fiscal year 2011-12, is a fair deal.
“Both the city and the district acknowledge that it is impractical and extremely difficult to determine the specific amount of compensation to be paid to the district for access to the high school facilities,” said Assistant City Manager Elaine Polachek.
Board of Education President Jose Escarce applauded the effort, which brings to a close over a year of work on the part of the board, council and volunteers that pushed the measures at the ballot box.
“For the district, securing reliable sources of funding is critical to our mission of educating all students when the state seems to have lost its way,” Escarce said.
Drops in state funding for K-12 education caused SMMUSD to hold several emergency fundraisers, like the Save our Schools effort, as well a failed attempt to pass the Measure A parcel tax.
Cuts to education for the coming year could range from nothing to $650 in average daily attendance per student, which would throw even well-supported districts like SMMUSD into disarray.
“Thank you for your steadfast support of our schools, it makes all the difference,” Escarce said.
Not all education advocates walked away happy, however.
Irene Zivi, member of the Santa Monica Child Care and Early Education Task Force, put in a plea for preschool funding, which received cuts of between $500,000 and $700,000 this year and no funding from Measure Y.
“I was told that Y and YY was for K-12, and that I should look elsewhere for help for preschool programs,” Zivi told council members. “I wanted to bring that to your attention, because I completely support what you’re doing, but I also support early childhood programs.”
The council has no say in how the school district chooses to spend its half of the tax proceeds.
This is the second joint-use agreement between the school district and City Hall. The previous Master Facilities Use Agreement gave City Hall and the community access to elementary school and middle school playfields in return for revenue to the district, and was approved in 2005. That agreements nets more than $7 million annually for the SMMUSD.