Key members of the City Council and the Beverly Hills Board of Education agreed last week to finish negotiations on a new Joint Powers Agreement by January 2012, but refrained from making a specific financial commitment to the pact.
The JPA is a four-year agreement in which the city pays the for access to school facilities. The current JPA, which pays BHUSD $10.3 million a year, expires July 1, 2012.
Mayor Barry Brucker and Vice Mayor Willie Brien met July 20 with school board President Lisa Korbatov and member Jake Manaster to discuss the next JPA. City Treasurer Elliot Finkel has recommended cutting it to $9 million a year, but the board voted last month to assume the JPA would remain at $10.3 million for the 2012-13 school budget.
Brucker and Brien said the city could not commit to a final JPA until negotiations with city workers are completed for fiscal year 2012-13. The tough economy has added pressure to the negotiations, they said.
“For the next fiscal year we will be making additional staff cuts—not just cuts of open positions but cuts from existing jobs,” Brien said. “What would put the next JPA at risk is if it is [perceived as] causing staff cuts. For the first time ever, we are getting comments from employee groups asking why the JPA is so large.”
The JPA represents about one-fifth of the annual BHUSD budget. A reduction to the JPA could mean significant cuts in school programs. Several board members have to contact council members and ask them to support the JPA at its current level.
In a June 9 letter to then-superintendent Dick Douglas, City Manager Jeff Kolin sent 17 “data requests” to BHUSD to better inform city officials as they start JPA talks. The extensive questions may suggest that the city will be looking for reasons to cut the JPA.
Kolin’s questions include:
- What are the student population comparisons for each school by year for the time period covered by the current JPA?
- Which anticipated construction and improvement projects planned for the next five years could impact the ability of BHUSD to provide facilities to the city?
- What are the current rental policies and rates for facilities?
- How many BHUSD furlough days, if any, were scheduled during the current JPA?
- Will BHUSD need the use of any facilities during construction expected during the next JPA?
Current Superintendent Gary Woods and Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Alex Cherniss, who were present for the JPA meeting, said they would supply answers to these questions.
Woods, who has dealt with city-school agreements in other districts where he has worked described the Beverly Hills JPA as “the best JPA agreement I have seen by far.”
The councilmen and board members both pledged to educate the public more about which school facilities are available to the public, and at what times, under the JPA. They agreed to meet a few more times by the end of the year, but no dates were set.