May 27, 2000-- Foothill Leader

It's worse than we thought

By Anita Susan Brenner

The spin is on. Meet Meredith Reynolds. She's a member of the La Canada School Board. She's also a member of the Bond Oversight Committee.

Last week, Reynolds floated a trial balloon at a committee meeting -- her explanation for the board's tardy application to the state for modernization matching funds.

The committee wanted to know why the board applied for $5.5 million in matching funds in April. The state money ran out in March. The explanation: "We didn't want to lie."

According to Reynolds, the application form required a certification that there was local money -- i.e. that the bond had passed. According to Reynolds, the reason the board waited until after the December election was "We didn't want to lie."

Asst. Supt. Maureen Saul agreed. Unlike "some people", Saul didn't want to lie. Saul told the committee that on each of the applications, she certified the district had a local match and that there was a bond. "The form requires it," Saul said.

The result: Sheepish committee members dropped the issue like a hot potato. There were no more questions about why the applications were late.

Seldom has an oversight committee been so completely snookered.


Perhaps the committee could speak with the project managers from the state.

Lina Lessa, supervisor of project management for the state's Office of Public School Construction, has confirmed that no such certification is needed on the application. In fact, proof of a local match isn't required until the money is released. The money, none which will go to local elementary schools, will be released in July.

Perhaps the oversight committee should look at the application forms. No such certification is on the applications. The requirements are written in black and white on the state packet. There are two forms. One form is used to apply for the money. The other used when the money is released. The application form does not require the district to describe local funding sources.

Saul ought to know. She signed all six applications. The school bond isn't mentioned in any of them. The local match isn't mentioned either. But Saul told the committee, "I signed the forms. I signed the certification."

Committee member Linda Bair said, "I was frustrated during the meeting. I tried to question Dr. Saul regarding whether certification was necessary on the application and her response to me was, ‘Hindsight is 20-20.' I wish she had brought the forms to the meeting so we could all examine them."

Copies of the forms are now available online at Jo French's website


If the committee members look at the forms, here's what they'll see. Saul made all six applications on the form provided by the state -- "check-the-box" style document called "Application for Funding (50-04)". Form 50-04 has no boxes to check concerning school bonds. That's because no certification of local matching funds is needed at the time the Form 50-04 is filed. That's the job of the second form, called "Fund Release Authorization (50-05). According to the state, certification of local matching funds, such as the bond, is required on Form 50-05, which will be submitted in July.

Bottom line: The district could have submitted their proposals in December and placed the bond on the general election in March. Think of it as buying the corsage before getting the date

It gets worse: Reynolds and Saul admitted the whole point of the bond election was to secure money for the high school library, not to help the grade schools. "I was surprised we could apply for state money for our elementary schools." said Saul. It wasn't until January that Saul learned that the elementary schools could receive state modernization matching funds during a state walk-through.

Whoa! That's not what they said during the election.

Here's what the campaign literature said: -- "LCE - $1.8 million." "PCY - $1.5 million", "PCR- $1.3 million."

People voted for the bond because of the matching funds. Board president Jeanne Broberg said in the ballot statement, "The $6 million bond will bring $13.8 million with state matched funds."


What will they do next? Reynolds told the committee that on Tuesday, the school board will discuss whether to issue bonds without matching funds. The board could spend the bond money on the elementary schools without any state match. She hopes the state will issue some money in the future to reimburse the district.

The truth is out there.

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