La Cañada Unified reacts to Sagebrush proposal

School officials call $23-million asking price for territory transfer too high.

Glendale News Press
By: Kelly Corrigan
November 5, 2014

In response to the Glendale Unified school board approving a proposal to transfer the Sagebrush territory Tuesday night — at a potential $23-million cost to La Cañada Unified — La Cañada school officials said the dollar estimates far exceed what they could pay and hope for more talks with their Glendale counterparts.

La Cañada Unified Supt. Wendy Sinnette said school board members plan to discuss Glendale’s proposal during their Nov. 18 meeting, although as it stands now, the asking-price estimate represents “a financial commitment far in excess than we could reasonably take on.”

The proposal asks La Cañada to pay $6.8 million in debt connected to two Glendale school bonds over 23 years and $16 million over 12 years in expected reductions in state funding due to decreased enrollment.

“You cannot even look at those numbers and figure out a way to finance that proposition,” Sinnette said, adding that she would support school officials from both districts meeting face-to-face for more discussions.

“Whether it yields any outcome, I don’t know,” she added. “It would still show good-faith discussion… We don’t plan to do anything formal until we have a discussion at our next regularly scheduled board meeting.”

La Cañada Unified school board President Ellen Multari said Glendale’s estimated asking price is too much for her school district to afford, as it already spends more than it receives from the state on its students.

“It would be imprudent of us to make that kind of a deal that limits our means to educate our students,” she said.

Multari said she hopes school officials from both districts will come together to discuss the figures and strive to secure a negotiated agreement, something she says is in the best interest of students and families.

“We need to get back to the table,” Multari said. “There needs to be better understanding of where these decision points are coming from.”

Glendale school officials voted 4-0 in favor of the proposal following public comments on both sides of the issue. Board member Sandy Russell, a Sagebrush resident, abstained under the direction of Glendale Unified’s attorneys, who cited a potential conflict of interest.

The plan assumes a 3% increase in state per-pupil funding annually and asks for half of the compensation that Glendale officials calculate would have been paid by the state to serve the Sagebrush students — a total of about $32 million.

La Cañada resident Craig Mazin said the Glendale board’s proposal was “neither fair nor reasonable.”

“They’re trying to maneuver it so we in La Cañada look like the bad guys — the ones who won’t go along to get along… it’s way too late for that,” he said.

To read the full article, click here.

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