By Hannah Heineman
The voters of Santa Monica and Malibu will decide next Tuesday whether to pass a $365 million school bond measure (Measure ES). According to the President of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s (SMMUSD) School Board, Ben Allen, the measure has garnered a lot of support that he hopes will result in its approval by voters.
In an interview with the Dispatch, Allen noted, “There has been a coalescing of folks in Santa Monica and Malibu who are supporting Measure ES. We’re in a good place with the endorsements from the Santa Monica City Council, two Malibu School Board candidates, the Malibu Times, and the Santa Monica Daily Press.”
If the measure is approved by the voters, homeowners would, on average, pay $185 per year and renters about $16 per year to help fund improvements to the facilities in the School District.
Allen stressed that “Santa Monica High School is desperately in need of a facelift. It looks the same as when I was a student there 20 years ago and it looks the same as 20 years before I was a student there.” The measure would help pay for a lot of the needs that were identified during the district’s preparation for the $268 million facilities bond (Measure BB) that was approved by the voters in 2006.
According to Allen, the current measure would also allow the “upgrading of the district’s technical infrastructure all the way by having a fund to keep up with the technology as we move forward.” He also hopes it will be a green bond, “taking into account sustainable building practices” that will include energy-efficient features.
When it came to deciding whether to place this measure on the ballot along with two statewide propositions that are designed to support education, Allen said, “our sense was the needs were there and the conditions made sense to put it on the ballot this time around. Our polling said the timing was good.”
Allen went on to say that the District “takes its financial oversight very seriously. We have several independent citizen oversight committees that oversee the expenditures of the bond monies and we have one of the highest bond ratings in the state. This is reflective not only of our prudent financial stewardship but also the higher the bond rating the better the deal we will be able to get for the bonds for the taxpayers.” The four committees that would oversee the Measure ES bond expenditures would be the Financial Oversight Committee, the Proposition 39 Auditing Committee, the Measure ES Committee and the Special Site Committee in Malibu, which would focus its efforts exclusively on expenditures in Malibu.