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Sagebrush: La Cañada wants the students in the area, Glendale wants to keep them

August 14, 2013|By Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com

Glendale school officials Tuesday discussed the latest in the long-smoldering issue between the district and Sagebrush residents seeking to become part of the La Cañada Unified School District.

At issue are the 400 students who live in the La Cañada area but historically have been served by Glendale schools. Without them, Glendale Unified would lose $2.6 million in state funding each year, a loss that could increase to $3.6 million by 2018. If the students were to move to the La Cañada district, that district likely would gain much of the money that Glendale would lose.

In recent weeks, Sagebrush residents, led by Tom Smith, have rekindled the decades-old fight to have the area’s children go to La Cañada’s schools.

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“It seemed it was a bit of a shame to have the kids split their attention between their community and their school system,” Smith said. 

The La Cañada Flintridge City Council approved a resolution supporting the redrawing of district lines on June 3, which was followed by a similar move by the La Cañada school board on Aug. 6.

La Cañada officials say their argument is a common-sense one.

“It’s not about one school district being better than the other,” said La Cañada Flintridge Councilman Jonathan Curtis. “It’s really about the community cohesiveness.”

In November 1991, La Cañada residents filed a petition requesting that the Sagebrush area be transferred to the La Cañada school district. This sparked a 10-year legal battle.

The California State Board of Education eventually ruled Sagebrush should remain within Glendale Unified’s territory. Appeals filed by La Cañada residents met a dead-end.

This time around, school officials from both districts say they stand in favor of avoiding legal turmoil.

“It did get rather ugly the last time and so regardless … one of our agreements is that we will work at this from a professional standpoint,” said Glendale Unified Supt. Dick Sheehan during Tuesday’s board meeting.

Although La Cañada school board President Scott Tracy said filing a petition with the county committee remains an option, the first option is to come to a mutual agreement to avoid potential litigation.

“I keep telling our friends in Glendale, it’s not going to go away,” he said.

The biggest sticking point also isn’t going away: money. 

If the 145 Sagebrush students who attend Mountain Avenue Elementary are removed from the school, it would have a “tremendous impact” on the school, Glendale district officials stated in a report.

There is also concern regarding bond payments residents are making on the $186 million Measure K bond voters passed in 1997 and the $270 million Measure S bond approved in 2011.

For homes served by Glendale schools, property taxes come to $46 per $100,000 of assessed value. Due to high property values in Sagebrush, the relatively small area equates to nearly 2% of the property tax income for the district. 

Without those residents helping to pay back bond payments, Glendale school officials say the burden would be greater on other homeowners.

“We may have to look at that $46 promise that we made as we move forward,” said Eva Lueck, chief business and financial officer for Glendale Unified.

School officials on both sides say they want to continue talking. 

Glendale school board member Greg Krikorian said officials are examining “opportunities that will be beneficial on both sides.”

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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