Committee Meets to Set Ground Rules for City Sharing New Sales Tax Revenue With Public Schools

Ad Hoc Measure J Committee meets, Pasadena Unified members agree to provide ‘direction’ for new revenue at next meeting

Published : Thursday, December 20, 2018 | 5:49 AM

An Ad Hoc Committee of selected City Councilmembers and Pasadena Unified School District Board Members met for the first time Wednesday to hammer out the process for implementing voter-approved Measure J, which will send one-third of new Measure I municipal sales tax revenues from City coffers to the School Districts’.

Mayor Terry Tornek was unanimously selected to chair the Ad Hoc committee, whose formula will provide a basis for distributing the estimated $7 million in new annual revenue for the cash-strapped Pasadena Unified.

Tornek and Councilmembers Tyron Hampton and Margaret McAustin represent the City on the Committee. Pasadena Unified Board President Lawrence Torres, along with Board Members Patrick Cahalan and Kimberly Kenne, represent Pasadena Unified.

Pasadena City Manager Steve Mermell and Pasadena Unified Superintendent Brian McDonald attended the meeting.

“We need a game plan,” Tornek said.

Tornek told the School Board Members they should give the Council instruction as to suggested funding allocations, adding that he wanted to see a memorandum of understanding with a long-term commitment.

City Manager Steve Mermell suggested that the School Board might look at its list of budget cuts, and “maybe start there.”

Councilmember McAustin also emphasized that the new funding should be spent on programs and not salaries, but later in the meeting, Kenne told her, “If we want to restore programs, that requires hiring teachers.”

Much discussion centered around whether or not charter schools should receive Measure J funds.

Charter schools are not specifically mentioned in the Measure J’s wording. Tornek said that in writing the Measure he used the term “public schools” to mean Pasadena Unified schools, unaware that the term is also used to describe charter schools.

Pasadena Unified Board President Torres explained that there are three types of charter schools operating in Pasadena — those chartered by the Pasadena Unified, those chartered by Los Angeles County Office of Education, and some in Pasadena which are chartered by the City of Duarte.

“It’s hard for the Council to get their heads around this,” said Torres.

McAustin said she would not support direct allocation to charter schools.

School Board Member Cahalan was blunt, telling the Councilmembers “You guys are the money, but we have the voters. Charter schools should be our call.”

Cahalan also said he had “no problem” with the Pasadena Unified submitting an annual or semi-annual report on its spending to the Council, noting that “a document is also a marketing tool for us.”

The Pasadena Unified members said they would prepare a recommendations document for the next Committee meeting sometime after January 10.

“We don’t want this to be an endless process,” said Torres.