Last Tuesday, Santa Monica’s City Council voted unanimously to approve a “master facilities agreement” between the City and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District that calls for the City to give the School District $6 million in exchange for City use of District facilities in Santa Monica for community programs for the next five years.
To generate the $6 million, the City will tap into the following “Big Eight” General Fund revenue sources: 1) property tax; 2) sales tax; 3) utility users’ tax; 4) transient occupancy tax (TOT); 5) business license tax; 6) real property transfer tax; 7) parking facilities tax; and 8) fines/forfeitures. The base amount may vary, depending on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), between two to four percent annually.
The proposed plan contains triggers that will be activated in the event the “Big Eight” revenues rise or fall significantly, so there is a possibility that the District might receive more than the $6 million base amount.
In addition, the proposal includes a clause that could extend the agreement for an additional 2.5 years, following a conference “to assess the state of community use of school facilities and the fiscal status of the two organizations.”
Prior to the vote, Council member Richard Bloom commented that despite this being “one of our crowning achievements … there is what I see as a truly dark side to this. That is the lack of funding and the lack of support for our schools that is coming from Sacramento that leads a community like Santa Monica to a place where we have to provide additional funding (to our School District). We’re very fortunate in Santa Monica to have the financial wherewithal to due what we’re doing. But there are districts all across this state that don’t have the ability to do that. And the dark side of what we do here is that a two -tiered system is arising in our state. We have haves and have-nots and the differences between school districts in our state are dramatic and depressing.”
Council member Bobby Shiver said, “It’s an important point for progressive leaders to show the taxpayers that this money is being well spent….in the documents we have drafted, for various legal reasons, we don’t have an auditing function as I understand it. But I think it would be a very well-advised suggestion to the District and to the supporters of this funding that they, on their own motion so to speak, come to the Council and to the community every so often and report on the uses or even if we could put it in the frame of rate of return on the money.”
City Manager Susan McCarthy and School Superintendent John Deasy will work out the timing of the payment.
In other business, the Council heard a three-minute presentation from Marshall Grossman, an attorney who represents the law firm that won a settlement for the City from the oil companies that were responsible for contaminating the City’s water supply with MTBE (methyl tertiary-butyl ether).
In his presentation, Grossman noted due to his clients’ efforts “This City is now going to have $320 million in concrete benefits. It’s received $120 million in cash, plus the commitment to build and maintain a water treatment facility for as long as it’s necessary to keep to this water supply clean (valued by the court at $220 million).”
Grossman went on to say that his clients “were to receive a contingency fee under an agreement approved by this City Council, which is 25 percent of the settlement. You have $121 million in the bank. That money is more than enough to pay the legal fees that you owe,” but the law firm has not been paid.
As the question was scheduled to be discussed in closed session, the Council members could not comment on Grossman’s allegations.
The Council also denied an appeal of the Planning Commission’s approval of the remaining phases of the Big Bus facility expansion plan. The plan includes a new, three-story administration building at 612 Colorado with three levels of subterranean parking, a two-story maintenance building on 7th Street, an Ocean Park Community Center Access Center and SWASHLOCK, and an expanded bus yard.
The appellant, developer Craig Jones, objected to the project’s public entrance, pedestrian orientation, landscaped areas and absence of night-time public parking in the subterranean garage.The only change the Council made was to ask staff to return with after-hour parking options in the garage.