City Council To Form Joint Use Committee With LBUSD Board

by Tiffany Rider, Staff Writer

The Long Beach City Council voted recently to establish a joint use committee with the Long Beach Unified School District’s Board of Education members to pool resources and search for ways to save money.

“We’ve worked at having a formal relationship with members of the city council in the past, and we didn’t quite get there,” said Felton Williams, LBUSD board president, at the July 12 city council meeting. “But we can recognize the importance of having that kind of relationship, particularly in this day and time.”

The cash-strapped entities are to have representatives meet in a public forum, subject to the Brown Act, to review opportunities for joint use of land, environmental concerns, public safety concerns and other opportunities to accomplish their core missions with fewer funds. The item, presented to the council by 7th District Councilmember James Johnson, must be approved with a vote of the school board at a future meeting before the committee is formed.

“The reality is we all have less,” Johnson said. “The school district has less money to work on their mission. The city has less money to work toward our mission.”

Fourth District Councilmember Patrick O’Donnell, a teacher at Paramount High School, supported bringing the item to council. “It’s about keeping kids busy and saving money,” he said. “Certainly it’s using facilities, but it’s also where we can pool our resources and save money. We shouldn’t be afraid to have that conversation.”

The city is facing a multi-million dollar budget deficit for fiscal year 2012, beginning October 1, while LBUSD had to layoff nearly 800 teachers and staff this year to help balance its budget. Over the past three years, the school district has cut more than $200 million from its budget.

Once the committee is approved, the group is to be comprised of three city councilmembers, with a chair to be nominated by Mayor Bob Foster, and two school boardmembers. According to the item, any committee member would be able to place items for consideration by the committee on its agenda.

“Over the past several years, there have been many attempts to try to do this, and if you don’t engage or involve the school principals this endeavor is not likely to be very successful,” Foster noted. “I know in Long Beach it’s a pretty decentralized operation. They have to be part of it.”

Some joint use agreements already exist between the city and LBUSD, and Williams said synergy is important when looking at opportunities citywide. “A good school district does a number of things. It creates opportunities for businesses to come into the city,” he said. “It also creates opportunities for families to move into the city because it’s a well-functioning school district, and that’s the way we want to keep it.”

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