The Santa Monica City Council has voted to support a bond measure on the November ballot that would provide funding for facility improvements at district schools.
At its Aug. 28 meeting the council unanimously endorsed Measure ES, which if passed by district voters Nov. 6, would allow for $385 million in bonds to fund repairs and modernization at Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District schools, particularly Santa Monica High School. The projects are intended to ensure that classrooms and other facilities meet modern academic standards and current fire and earthquake safety requirements.
The Board of Education voted Aug. 1 to place the measure on the Nov. 6 ballot, saying that the loss of state funding and removal of redevelopment agencies has impacted the district’s ability to fund needed facility improvement projects.
Homeowners would pay an average of $185 more per year if the measure passes.
“The capital needs of the district are great and this is an opportunity for us to really be able to revamp a lot of the facilities, particularly at Santa Monica High School,” school board President Ben Allen told the council.
He added that there are plans related to green building, maintenance, new technologies and building upgrades that are needed throughout the district.
Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis, who presented the council motion, noted that the Santa Monica High campus has not had any meaningful upgrades in nearly 40 years. Studies have shown that the quality of facilities at schools can positively affect student achievement in the classroom, she said.
“This measure is designed to not only create a safer and better environment for our students but it will lead to improvements in classroom performance,” Davis said. “We already have fantastic schools and teachers; what we need to do is create a fantastic built environment for them to teach and study in.”
The bond measure would need to be supported by at least 55 percent of district voters to be enacted. Voters will be asked if the bonds should be used to pay for improvements to school facilities. If passed, the bond funding could not be taken away by the state and would only be used by the district to upgrade aging schools, offset state budget cuts and protect student safety.
The measure would also create an independent citizens oversight committee that would ensure the money is spent as promised.
Asked how the loss of state redevelopment agencies has impacted school projects, Allen said funding is no longer available for $56 million in improvements slated for Santa Monica High and other projects. A large portion of the bonds will be used for the high school upgrades that were expected to be completed with redevelopment funding, he told the council.
“We’re all facing a terrible financial crisis and it’s impacting us across the board. This is going to help us on a lot of levels and we’ll even save a little on the operational side too, which we’re excited about,” Allen said.