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SMMUSD FOC delivers annual report

Chris Bashaw, Assistant Editor
4:01 pm PDT July 21, 2014

Members of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unfied School District Board of Education heard an annual report delivered by members of its financial oversight committee at their meeting on Wednesday, July 16.

The majority of discussion between the committee members and the members of the Board of Education revolved around financial and legal challenges facing the proposed secession of Malibu’s four public schools from SMMUSD.

“In our minds, this is a subject that’s going to continue to need attention and a continued look at some of these issues, which are very complicated,” said Tom Larmore, SMMUSD FOC chairperson. “In terms of the locations of assets and liability, future bond capacity, we’ve discussed those a bit over the last year and we’re not too much father along now than when we were before. A lot of those issues remain along with issues about the process of how this is going to move forward.”

Some legal roadblocks facing SMMUSD and advocates for a secession of Malibu’s school from the District revolve tightly around the allocation of funds from existing SMMUSD bonds, as well as procurement of bonds during separation, should it occur.

“The legal issues we focused on were allocation of existing bonds and how that gets allocated between the two districts,” Lamore said, adding that the FOC subcommittee assigned to the separation of Malibu schools from SMMUSD is still looking into what happens with bonds that have been authorized but not yet issued and the impact of the District’s ability to acquire new bonds during the process of separation.

SMMUSD FOC member Craig Foster – a Malibu resident who wears many hats in local education issues, not least of which are his presidency at Advocates for Malibu Public Schools (AMPS) and his recently announced bid for a seat on the SMMUSD Board of Education – said the process for separation has met five of the nine required criteria for separation.

“Four more required additional work,” he said. “These included the issued debt, authorized debt, Measure R parcel tax and future bonds. We have to look at that and see what that is for Malibu and what that is for Santa Monica when the districts part their ways.”

Foster added that a “fair amount of discussions and expert legal advice” have been given to the issues encountered by the SMMUSD FOC, “but these are things that you cannot ultimately have confidence in what you know until you’ve driven down to the details of it. What’s before us now is to go from a general understanding to a very detailed understanding.”

The members of the SMMUSD FOC and Board of Education also discussed the potential for hiring technical consultants to assist SMMUSD Chief Financial Officer Jan Maez with sorting through the information and processes necessary for separation. 

“As I’ve said from the get-go, I’m reluctant to allocate District resources to this endeavor when there really are so many other things that are priorities for our resources right now,” said SMMUSD Superintendent Sandra Lyon. “That being said, if Jan is going to work with anyone to assist us, it will still take a large amount of Jan’s time to get the consultants brought up to speed.”

While Foster said AMPS is prepared to front the cost of any additional experts or resources the District needs, but FOC member Paul Silvern retorted that even so, the District would need to follow a process for such consultants to be acquired.

“I appreciate Craig’s offer for AMPS to fund it, provided there’s appropriate reimbursement agreements so the actual selection of that consultant is done by the District following its normal consultant-selection process,” Silvern said.

Maez expressed support for the District to seek outside support for investigating the necessary issues under the guidance of the FOC.

“I do agree with some of the comments made that clearly I think our next step is to hire some outside support,” she said. “It may be in some several different forms depending upon the expertise of the parties, but what I would really like to see is the FOC help identify the scope of work for those outside consultants so we get a product at the end that is useful to everyone.”