The San Marino School Board is evaluating the size of a possible Certificate of Participation loan, or COP, to help with the construction of the Barth Athletic Complex at Huntington Middle School. On Tuesday night, the board heard presentations form Chet Wang of Keygent Advisors and Don Hunt of Norton Rose Fulbright, both of whom explained possible funding and payoff options. The board will consider the project again at its next meeting on Jan. 24, 2017.
“The more money we raise, the less money we have to borrow,” said Superintendent Dr. Alex Cherniss.
Currently, the district has $4.5 million in private donations, $2 million in facility funds and $1.5 million in developer’s fees to use towards the $14 million project. Cherniss is hoping for more private donations and the district will possibly make up the difference with a COP.
The board has considered putting on the ballot a general obligation bond for a comprehensive upgrade of the district’s 4 campuses and – if passed – could pay off the loan with those funds. The item could be put on a ballot as soon as Nov., 2017 if Pasadena City College goes out for a bond, according to Cherniss. If not, the SMUSD would wait another year.
Cherniss indicated on Wednesday he would rather use the $1.5 million in developer’s fees for debt service.
At a joint meeting of the San Marino City Council and School Board on Nov. 9, Cherniss asked the city for a $2 million rental use prepayment, wherein the city would be reimbursed through facility usage. So far, the city has not provided a final response to the request.
Cherniss is also researching other avenues to help fund the project.
San Marino residents Avery & Andy Barth last year made an initial donation of $3.5 million for the project. Lisa & Tim Sloan purchased naming rights for the fitness center for $500,000 and the Barger Family, likewise, will have naming rights of the multi-purpose room for their gift of $250,000.
Other contributors include a $50,000 donation from the family of Valerie & Aaron Weiss, $25,000 from Pat Haden via the Fletcher Jones Foundation and $50,000 from the William Hurt Foundation.
At the end of the discussion period, Board Member Lisa Link changed the designation on the agenda from an action item to a discussion item.
Link said the board needed more time to explore the matter and she also didn’t want to move forward without the input of Board member Chris Norgaard, who was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
The board also heard reports from all 4 site principals, who detailed their goals for student achievement.
Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Julie Boucher delivered a grim projection for the district’s budget, predicting a $2 million shortfall for the 2017-18 school year. Boucher pointed to an increase in expenditures, including CalPERS, CalSTRS and step & column increases for district employees. CalPERS is the California Public Employee Retirement System and CalSTRS is the California State Teachers Retirement System.
The board also signed off on policies regulating school-sponsored social media and the use of drones on district properties.
Cherniss also thanked Nam Jack, who chaired her final meeting as board president.
“I want to state my sincere appreciation for former President Nam Jack,” said Cherniss. He praised the 7-year board member for her “presence,” “grace,” “humor,” and “high expectations.”
“I know,” Cherniss joked. “She has high expectations for me.”