Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica-Malibu School District Breathes Sigh of Relief After Bond Measure Passes
By Melonie Magruder
November 9, 2012 -- When Measure ES -- the bond that will upgrade Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s infrastructure -- passed on Tuesday, it showed that local voters overwhelmingly support the idea of handing the district up to $385 million to improve children’s school experience.
The measure passed with nearly 68 percent support, and a huge sigh of relief could be heard from nearly everyone in the city affiliated with the school district.
Paul Silvern, a member of the district’s Financial Oversight Committee tasked with directing school funding, was elated.
“This is a very exciting opportunity for the district to make sizeable improvements to our local facilities for teachers, students and the general public,” he said.
SMMUSD devised a Master Plan in 2006 identifying the district’s needs for each school, from upgrading technology networks, to eliminating “temporary” classrooms in lieu of expanded permanent classroom area, to designing state-of-the-art security measures.
Measure BB, the $268 million bond measure passed in 2006 to address immediate infrastructure needs, has already taken a bite out of the necessary repairs recognized in the Master Plan. ES will go a long way to finishing the job.
School Board member Ralph Mechur, who initially opposed the idea of placing Measure ES on this year’s ballot, believing it to be premature, was delighted to see its passage. He said the district was poised to begin immediate implementation of certain projects.
“We have plans for projects at all of our campuses,” Mechur said. “First priority will be to review and confirm that projects proposed prior to Measure BB are still the best projects to move forward with.”
“In Malibu, the superintendent will create a super committee to discuss and evaluate how to allocate the 20 percent dedicated for the Malibu schools. The Board of Education will work with recommendations from the sites and staff to create the final list of projects for the entire ES program.”
Silvern emphasized that all projects will be discussed in open consultation with all stakeholders: teachers, administrators, board members, students and parents. The specifics of every individual project will be undertaken at public meetings so that transparency is paramount and funds are allocated fairly and accurately.
“BB got a lot of work done for our secondary schools and Olympic High,” Board Member Jose Escarce said. “Our Master Plan is a very large framework and there might be some modifications to plans written six years ago.
“Architects will be brought on board to analyze that,” he said. “At Santa Monica High, for example, there is so much work to be done, it must be sequenced and phased in. Our kids still need to have classrooms to work in during construction.”
One thing local residents will not need to expect, however, is an unpleasant surprise when it comes to paying taxes at the end of the year. ES will not suddenly add a serious burden, as bonds will be floated only as money is needed to begin projects.
“Bonds will be sold as necessary to fund the project over time,” Mechur said. “The early costs are for architects and engineers to prepare the design and construction documents for the projects. The first (bond) sale of 10 to 20 percent might occur this spring or summer.”
No deadline has been set for construction on any item in the Master Plan. Mechur said that all projects would need to have complete document review and be approved by the DSA (Division of the State Architect) prior to beginning construction.
“The first projects will probably begin in late 2014 or early 2015,” Mechur said.
Meanwhile, with the passage of Governor Jerry Brown’s sponsored initiative, Proposition 30, school districts can avoid planning for another six billion dollars in education cuts, which would have affected teachers, librarians and administrators up and down the state.
“I think the fact that two thirds of our local folks supported ES is wonderful,” Escarce said. “It follows a long history of Santa Monica and Malibu supporting education. It means that we can modernize our facilities so our teachers can teach and our students can learn.”
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