Editor’s Note: SMMUSD rejected the Malibu proposal with a 5-2 vote. Boardmembers Craig Foster and Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein voted to accept the offer.

As County officials prepare to hear from both sides of the SMMUSD split debate this weekend, dueling proposals from both sides of the issue are circling the same idea: County mediation to determine financial terms.

The City of Malibu has submitted a proposal to split Santa Monica and Malibu into two districts citing a lack of control over local education, accusations of neglect due to that lack of control and a desire to keep it’s property taxes within the community. The District has said Malibu’s proposals are unfair to Santa Monica students and questioned how much revenue each side should retain.

Various propositions have emerged over the course of the debate with differing amounts of payment, lengths of payment and mechanisms for sharing revenue. While details have been difficult to nail down, both sides have voiced support for splitting the district if the financial terms can be agreed upon.

Malibu sent an offer on March 12 which the board rejected. Santa Monica officials responded with a counter offer on April 9 that:

Allocates State revenues under the LCFF Formula on a per pupil basis;

Allocates secured property tax revenues utilizing a proportional allocation of the SMMUSD Property Tax Ratio based on the enrollment in each proposed school district;

Allocates redevelopment property tax losses and pass-throughs to the entity serving the redevelopment territory;

Allocates Federal and Other State Revenues on the basis of enrollment in each proposed school district;

Allocates local revenues with geographical restrictions (e.g.: sales tax, joint use, facility lease revenues) to the entity serving the territory from where such revenues are generated;

Retains philanthropic local revenues to the entity which raises such revenues;

Allocates other local revenues not directly related to reimbursement of services provided to the entity conducting the activities resulting in such revenues.

In addition, the District’s representatives said they would be willing to work with a third party to develop the specific details.

“In light of this and in furtherance of the parties’ desire to pursue an equitable separation, a further proposal I have been authorized to extend is to have the City’s financial consultants (sans lawyers and electeds) meet jointly and work with the District’s financial consultant (sans lawyers and electeds) and SSC in an effort to independently evaluate the parties’ competing financial methodologies to assist each side assess the viability of the competing methodologies with a goal of landing on a methodology that both sides have publically and repeatedly stated they desired: a methodology that places neither territory’s students in a worse financial or programmatic position than they would otherwise be in the absence of separation (‘Joint Meeting’),” said the counter.

The offer to work with a joint meeting committee was contingent on Malibu postponing the upcoming meeting, a demand Malibu officials rejected. However, City of Malibu representatives said the city did see opportunity in most other aspects of the offer.

“This statement provides the City great hope that both parties can find common ground as we move through this County Committee’s process. However, given the District’s history of bad faith — including walking away from both the unanimously approved MUNC agreement of 2016 and from the recent efforts to sponsor special legislation to secure both districts’ parcel tax — you can understand why the City must decline any offer that requires us to withdraw our Petition from the County Committee process,” said their response.

The City of Malibu has asked both parties to go on the record with County officials as supporting the split pending financial terms, agree that the County is “well-suited to decide the financial terms of separation,” to abide by any determinations made by the County and forego any contact with the County Committee while financial terms are being developed.

“The City believes this addresses both our mutual desire for a locally controlled, independent Malibu School District and for financial conditions in the two successor districts that will be fair and equitable, in fact and by definition.”

SMMUSD will debate the latest Malibu letter on Friday in a closed session and as of publication, both sides are due to present arguments to County officials on Saturday.

The county hearing will be held online (https://www.lacoe.edu) starting at 9:30 a.m.


Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...