Fields: The agreement allows residents to use school fields when they are not being used by the schools themselves. Matthew Hall

If your kids like playing on the swing set at their local school campus on Saturday afternoons, they have the City of Santa Monica to thank for the privilege of using a Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) facility outside school hours. The agreement comes from Master Facilities Use Agreements between the City and SMMUSD, which “allow community members to use District facilities at the elementary, middle, and high schools in Santa Monica during non-school hours for recreation and sports purposes,” according to City descriptions. 

Last week, the City issued a document indicating the current facilities use agreements, also called joint use agreements, will continue until 2027. Each year, the City of Santa Monica pays the SMMUSD about $10 million in the agreement, which includes nearly $100,000 to reimburse the District for “the cost of the District’s roaming Sports Facility Attendants who will monitor, clean, and close the restrooms and facilities, as well as remind users of current public health rules,” according to the City.

For fiscal year 2021-22, the SMMUSD estimated it would receive $10,146,061 through the joint use agreement; the City estimated in its two-year budget that its fee to the District would come to $10,023,059 for the same period, increasing to $10,263,613 for fiscal year 2022-23, which begins in July. 

Although the Master Facilities Agreement is ostensibly rent paid by the City to open up school facilities to the public after hours, an information item published on the City of Santa Monica’s website on April 29 also suggests that the money is meant to support the District financially (“to support the District’s educational mission”).

“Over the years, the City has built a collaborative partnership with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) to support exceptional educational, cultural, and recreational achievements at the public schools,” according to the information item, which was prepared by Community Services Assistant Director Danielle Noble on behalf of City Manager David White and Community Services Director Andy Agle. “SMMUSD has supported residents by maintaining high-caliber classroom education as well as facilities used by students and residents alike. The relationship is codified in the Master Facilities Use Agreement and its supplements, which enable community members to use elementary, middle, and high school playfields, recreational facilities, and buildings that are under-utilized during non-school hours. The Agreement provides unrestricted revenue to the School District in return for use of District facilities. The School District has used City funds to support the District’s educational mission.”

While the SMMUSD enjoys an eight-digit joint use agreement with the City of Santa Monica, its similar agreement with the City of Malibu is considerably smaller; Malibu pays about $250,000 for use of facilities at its three SMMUSD school sites. According to a recent SMMUSD budget presentation, the Santa Monica joint use agreement makes up five percent of the District’s annual revenues; the Malibu joint use agreement makes up “0%.”

The first such agreement came about in April 2005; at the time, the City of Santa Monica agreed to pay $6,000,000, with annual adjustments considered based on the consumer price index, or CPI, between two and four percent annually. 

That agreement has since been extended several times: in 2009, 2012, 2018 and 2022. 

The current master facilities use agreement has been extended to June 30, 2027. It grants facility access including use of play fields, play structures, exercise paths, handball courts, basketball courts, general purpose hardscape, restrooms and parking lots on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (6 p.m. during daylight saving time) and on Sundays from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. (6 p.m. PDT). Facilities are also open on SMMUSD holidays and school breaks, with hours varying slightly.