School Board Defers Vote on Athletic Complex Loan to Feb. 14

The San Marino Unified School District Board of Education again delayed voting on a funding mechanism for its forthcoming athletic complex and will now tentatively take up the decision for a third time on Feb. 14.
After discussing the decision at its meeting Jan. 24, its members unanimously decided to wait until they had a better grasp of the agreement and provide as much information as it could to the community.
Board member Chris Norgaard said the board only received updated paperwork on the Friday before the meeting and wished to have more time to review it.
“This is nobody’s fault,” he added. “This is just the way the process worked out.”
Board member Lisa Link stressed caution in moving forward on major financial decisions, given the climate for public school district funding in the state.
“I do have concerns about this turning into a lot of debt for us,” she said. “As we read in the newspapers and have had presented to us, the school financing climate is not improving.”
The board is considering using a certificate of participation, or COP, to finance the athletic complex. If approved, SMUSD would use Carver Elementary School as collateral for what would be around $6.5 million in financing. The debt would be paid back over a period of 25 years, with options for early payment.
“I think it’s our responsibility to understand what the worst-case scenario is and that we’re entering into an agreement that could affect our general fund,” Link said.
The local Barth family has donated $3.5 million for the complex, which will be named for them in return. They also pledged an additional $2 million to be paid toward the COP debt if SMUSD is unable to pay it off by 2021.
Other notable donations include $500,000 from the Sloan family and $250,000 from the Barger family. In total, the project is expected to cost around $14 million and SMUSD continues to solicit donations to help out. The district also is in talks with the city about financial contribution.
SMUSD is facing what could be as much as a $2.5 million budget gap for the next fiscal year, although the state’s budgeting process is not yet complete. The district has shaved expenses recently thanks to consolidation and staff attrition.
The school board also reviewed the audit for the 2015-16 fiscal year, in which there were no findings.

Leave a Reply