CONTACT:  Sarah Wahrenbrock

(310) 450-8338, ext. 229


February 20, 2007



An Open Letter from the SMMUSD Board of Education to the Santa Monica and Malibu Communities


Over the past three months, questions have been raised about our School District’s ability to give a 5% raise to our teachers and still maintain the required budget reserves for economic uncertainties.  As a Board, we strongly supported this raise because we believe it is essential to attract and retain highly qualified teachers. Over the past several years, when state funding for schools was uncertain, our teachers asked for little in terms of increased compensation. We believe that in this year when education is fully funded by the state it is important to provide our teachers with a competitive raise.


To address the questions that have been raised, Superintendent Dianne Talarico requested the assistance of the state’s Fiscal Management Assistance Team (FCMAT), a recognized authority in school finance.  The Board of Education received FCMAT’s report this past week and discussed it at the Board meeting of February 15.  In brief, the FCMAT report contains the following findings:


·                     Most important, the report affirms the Board’s conviction that the District is able to give our teachers a well-deserved 5% raise while maintaining the required budget reserves.

·                     The report identifies several areas where the District can improve its budgeting practices in order to use our limited resources more efficiently.  The Board welcomes these recommendations, which will help us to stretch our resources in order to improve the education we provide to our students.

·                     The report raises concerns about the District’s declining enrollment, a consequence of a more restrictive policy regarding out-of-district permits that the Board approved a few years ago with the goal of reducing overcrowding in our schools.  We have closely monitored enrollment since the new policy was implemented and we are aware that declining enrollment will result in a deficit in our operating budget unless we make budget reductions.  The Board will take active steps to address the projected deficit beginning with this year’s budget development process.


We applaud Superintendent Talarico for her leadership in requesting FCMAT’s objective and impartial assessment of our budget.  We are also indebted to Mr. Anthony Bridges of FCMAT and to his staff for their meticulous examination of our District budget and for helping us to improve our practices, and to our District’s own fiscal staff for their expert work on behalf of our students and staff.


Finally, we thank the communities of Santa Monica and Malibu for the support you provide to our schools.  We are uniquely fortunate to have one of the most supportive school communities in California, and we could not provide an excellent education to our students without your generous assistance and ongoing support.




Board of Education

Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District





1651 16TH Street, Santa Monica, CA 90404

ph: 310.450.8338, fax: 310.581.1138