LCUSD Explores Parcel Tax Renewal

The La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board unanimously voted to approve a contract with the firm that led the successful effort to pass a 2014 parcel tax to assess the feasibility of renewing the measure.
The contract with San Francisco-based Terris Barnes Walters Boigon Heath Inc. was approved on Tuesday night at a regular governing board meeting. The consulting firm’s Charles Heath, who helped the district orchestrate the campaign for Measure LC several years ago, will again lead the effort.
“I think the key thing here is it’s not a new parcel tax, because I think there’s some confusion out there,” said governing board member Joe Radabaugh. “This is the renewal of the existing parcel tax. We’re just having the foresight to anticipate this very important undertaking of our funding structure. I know there’s some confusion between bond and parcel tax. Bond is capital and buildings and infrastructure, and parcel tax is paramount to the teachers and instructional programs.”
The company will be paid a base consulting fee of $6,500 per month, according to a district statement. Additional fees will cover a $26,250 parcel tax feasibility survey of at least 400 likely voters conducted by landline telephone, cellphone and email. Also, informational mailers to 6,750 estimated voters would cost $8,355, according to the statement.
The 2014 measure resulted in a total parcel tax of $450 per parcel per year, and more than 68% of the voters approved it in March 2014.
In 2016, Heath told the board that residents with an $800,000 property pay property taxes totaling $9,041.58 annually, including $450 a year for the parcel tax set to expire in June 2021.
It’s not clear if the parcel tax would be continued in its current form, said Mark Evans, the district’s chief business and operations officer, after the meeting. “They’ll start testing the waters and find out if we keep it going the way it is or do something a little bit different,” he said.
Evans noted that the current parcel tax began before he arrived in the district.
“We were looking at the budget and in [2021-22] there’s a drop in revenue because [the parcel tax] doesn’t show anymore,” Evans said.
A timeline for receiving information from Heath’s firm was not given.

NEW ADMINISTRATORS APPOINTED

Superintendent Wendy Sinnette, new Director of Programs and Services Karen Hurley, new La Cañada High School Assistant Principal Jason Ito and Governing Board President Brent Kuszyk
Photo by Wes Woods II / OUTLOOK
La Cañada Unified School District Superintendent Wendy Sinnette, new Director of Programs and Services Karen Hurley, new La Cañada High School Assistant Principal Jason Ito and Governing Board President Brent Kuszyk celebrate the most recent position changes in the district. Hurley and Ito were approved for their positions on Tuesday at a regular board meeting.

The board also voted unanimously for the appointments of Karen Hurley as the district’s director of programs and services and Jason Ito as La Cañada High School assistant principal.
Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said that it was a district priority to recognize the talent of administrative team members and that Hurley, who has served as principal of Palm Crest Elementary School since 2009, was a great fit. Sinnette said she understood that Hurley will be missed by PCR staff but that this was a good move for the district and her career.
“We’re very excited to have her join us at the district office in a support role and are grateful to her for accepting the appointment,” Sinnette said.
Hurley will serve under Anais Wenn, associate superintendent of educational services. Hurley will coordinate programs, curriculum and actions related to educational services, according to a statement. Her anticipated salary is listed as $145,582.
“I feel fortunate and honored to have been given this opportunity to serve not only Palm Crest students, families and staff, as I have done for the past nine years, but to serve the entire LCUSD community,” Hurley said in a statement. “I look forward to working directly with school principals, staff and district administration to ensure exemplary services for all LCUSD stakeholders.”
Ito has eight years of public education experience at El Segundo High School and has served as a teacher on special assignment with El Segundo Unified School District, according to a statement. He also has two years of experience at Rolling Hills Preparatory High School in San Pedro, a private independent school.
“The LCHS administrative team specifically has met with Mr. Ito and seen him as an ideal candidate,” Sinnette said. She pointed out the “systems thinking approach,” hard work and other characteristics that led to his appointment.
His anticipated salary is $121,977, according to a district statement.
“I’m just really grateful for the opportunity and I look forward to be part of a great leadership team,” Ito told The Outlook afterward. “I’ve been able to walk around the school and Kristina [Kalb, LCHS assistant principal] and Jim [Cartnal, principal] have welcomed me with open arms, and I’m excited to get started on July 1.”
Kalb said she, Cartnal, Ito and LCHS 7/8 Principal Jarrett Gold will divide some job responsibilities because there are now two assistant principals instead of three, the previous number.
Sinnette said the district hopes to have a candidate identified for the board to appoint as Palm Crest principal in time for the next meeting, set for 7 p.m. July 16.

2019-20 BUDGET APPROVED

The board unanimously approved a second reading of the district’s proposed budget for 2019-20 that was discussed at the previous board meeting, putting it into effect. Budget expenditures for the current fiscal year are projected at more than $48 million and expected to rise to more than $49 million the following year. During the June 18 board meeting, officials discussed how the expiration of the parcel tax will cause locally obtained revenue to fall from $8.2 million in 2020-21 to about $5.6 million the following year. As noted above, the district is exploring the renewal of the tax.

RESURFACING OF TENNIS COURTS APPROVED

The board also approved $62,500 for resurfacing the Cornishon Avenue tennis courts, which had not been repaired in 25 years. The district is sharing the cost with the city of LCF, which will pay the same amount and is handling the bid, Evans said.

AIR-QUALITY FILTERS UPGRADED

In other news, Sinnette said the air-quality filters at LCHS have been upgraded from a standard-level to a hospital-grade filtration.
The comments came during an update about the Devil’s Gate Reservoir Restoration sediment removal and maintenance project.
Sinnette said an air-quality filter was installed by Los Angeles County, which is overseeing the project, on top of the high school’s north gym and another was placed atop the dam project close to where load trucks are traveling.
She said the biggest problem with the project has been dust coming from trucks.
“The dust has been significant,” Sinnette said.
The county is installing a wheel wash to allow trucks’ tires to be cleaned as the vehicles leave the site, reducing dust in the future, she said.
The district is also keeping an eye on a Pasadena group’s court challenge to the project.
Sinnette added the district has not experienced “unhealthful air” so far.

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