Posted Thursday, May 4, 2017 – 6:20 PM
By Laura Coleman
Wednesday’s School-City Liaison meeting might as well have happened on a playground with 6-year-olds instead of at City Hall with four elected officials, given all the bullying and tantrums that took place.
“No. No. No. No!” exclaimed Councilman John Mirisch after Beverly Hills High School Principal Dave Jackson took the former mayor to task for making disparaging generalizations about Beverly Hills Unified School District teachers due to the fact that their salaries are tied to the City’s property taxes.
Mirisch’s outburst followed his earlier declaration as to just what would happen if the school district failed to change its current salary formula.
“Your other option is that you have a budget that is $9.7 million lighter,” he threatened. “That’s your problem. Sorry if that happens.”
By the end of the hour-long meeting, the message was clear: the City Council had voted in closed session to make the continuation of the Joint Powers Agreement contingent on eliminating tying property values to salary.
“This is something that the council has unanimity in,” Mirisch added.
At the heart of Wednesday’s meeting was continuing the annual $9.7 million JPA for a four-year term, which includes an additional annual payment of $125,000 for crossing guards. That money represents roughly one-sixth of the annual budget for the Beverly Hills Unified School District.
According to Board of Education VP Lisa Korbatov, without the expectation of JPA money, the district will be unable to certify its budget to the Los Angeles County Office of Education.
In existence since 1978, the JPA provides the community with access to the BHUSD’s school fields and facilities through many programs offered by the City of Beverly Hills Community Services Department. Director of Community Services Nancy Hunt-Coffey said the City had yet to explore alternative solutions if the JPA were to be discontinued.
The district is currently in negotiations with its unions to discontinue the current salary formula. Earlier this week, the board sent out a letter digitally signed by all five members, alerting the community to plans to take a four-pronged approach to solve its current budget crisis. One of those solutions is to do away with tying employees’ salaries to property taxes.
“The financial health of our school district impacts our community and our community partnerships,” said Superintendent Michael Bregy. “We are hearing many different voices as it relates to finding long-term solutions to achieving financial substantiality.”
Indeed, the council’s request is not at odds with what the school board wants. To that end, Korbatov asked Vice Mayor Julian Gold and Mirisch to have the City Council craft a “strongly worded letter” about this new contingency in order for the district to make use of it during contract negotiations with the union.
Beverly Hills Education Association President Telly Tse criticized the board for its attempt to do away with the salary formula as a partial solution to failing in its fiscal responsibility to the district.
“The problem is not the salary formula; the problem is how the district chooses to spend its money,” he said. “The formula is a part of our collective bargaining agreement and while salary is being discussed in negotiations, BHEA and the district are nowhere near any agreement that involves the formula being taken out of the contract.”
Neither Tse nor Board of Education President Mel Spitz said they expected the current impasse would lead to a teacher strike.
The meeting proved premature as the two sides still have yet to fine tune the nuances of the new JPA, including codifying a process for making repairs.
Said Gold: “The basic premise is if we break it, we should fix it; if you break it, you should fix it.”
The liaison is expected to reconvene later this month.