City and CUSD Joint Use Agreement, Development Agency, and Basic Aid Explained

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Submitted by
Coronado City Councilwoman Carrie Downey and
Coronado Unified School District Trustee Maria Simon


This past week the City of Coronado (City) and the Coronado Unified School District (CUSD) deliberated over adding a potential lease for an enclosed off-leash dog park on CUSD property to the list of CUSD facilities that would be available for use by Coronado residents. During the City Council meeting it became apparent that many residents were unaware of the longstanding joint endeavors by Coronado’s two taxing authorities to improve the lives of students and residents.

Both of us entered politics after we had each served as President of the Village Elementary PATT. Our children attended what was then kindergarten at the Old Crown Elementary School site, which had no green space and one piece of playground equipment. Each had been faced with the responsibility to fundraise over $100,000 a year that was first committed to pay for contract part-time art/music/PE teachers to help expand resources for our schools. PATT raised the money for the shades over the equipment because we understood the importance of outside exercise and we understood the budgetary challenges facing CUSD.

While the CUSD Superintendent has since recommended the offer to lease be removed, and the City did not approve the lease, we wanted to provide some history and context on how the City and CUSD have and can assist each other going forward, including the current Joint Use Agreements that govern the relationship between the agencies and the formation of the Coronado Community Development Authority in 1985.

Joint Use Agreements

The City has exceptional recreation facilities to hold athletic events which have only improved with time, such as the golf course, tennis courts, Baseball Park, municipal swimming pool, and other Coronado parks. To allow CUSD students and athletes access to train and compete at these facilities both for PE class use and school sports team competitions, there have been separate agreements over the years between the City and CUSD for student “Use of the Tennis Courts” and use of the city pool, golf course and Baseball Park for decades.

On the flip side, the California Legislature recognized the advantages of allowing residents and municipal governments to jointly use school facilities for local communities, when not in conflict with educational needs of the students and as a method to generate additional income for schools. The goals were codified in the Educational Code as the “Civic Center Act” (Act). “It is the intent of the Legislature to encourage all school districts to maximize opportunities to make available and accessible public school facilities and grounds to their communities as civic centers….”  The Act establishes the mechanism for determining the costs CUSD charges the churches and others that use their facilities.

In 2016 CUSD and the City signed a new separate agreement for the provision, use and maintenance of educational, recreational and community facilities and programs for the fiscal year 2016-17 (Agreement). The Agreement makes a list of CUSD facilities available for public use for free to include weekend use of athletic fields, basketball and wall board courts, the high school track, and play yards, when not in conflict with CUSD scheduled uses. The Agreement also includes the City’s use of the theater and other rooms, again when not in conflict with educational needs. The City pays CUSD $370,000 a year to allow the residents to, among other uses, play basketball, wall ball, or run on the track. The terms of use for each site were to be separately negotiated and could be posted on each site at CUSD’s discretion. The Agreement provides a mechanism for residents to more fully use all of the community outdoor resources, and raise needed funds for CUSD. It can grow and expand as the need arises.

Unrelated to the Agreement, the City has an agreement with the U.S. Navy for the use of what is known as “Dog Beach,” which is actually located on Federal lands. The Silver Strand Elementary School is located entirely on U.S. Navy land through a CUSD-U.S. Navy agreement. Additionally, many of the parks, the golf course, and portions of the City’s Glorietta Bay facilities are located entirely on Port of San Diego owned land. The terms of these agreements establish how the land can be used.

Community Development Agency (CDA)

In the 1980s, as the City’s population continued to expand after the Cays and Shores were built, and CUSD’s student population increased, both agencies were concerned about how they would be able to replace the WWII era government buildings. The City was worried about the deterioration of the downtown area as well, and the effect on sales tax and property values. In 1982, the Coronado Schools Foundation was established by parents and community members to raise additional funds to assist Coronado schools to meet the needs of a growing student population in old school facilities. With the City’s urgings the Coronado Mainstreet organization was formed by business and civic leaders in 1988 to “Revitalize Coronado’s downtown through preservation and beautification for the benefit of our entire community.”

The City and CUSD formed the CDA in 1985 to utilize California Redevelopment Law to redirect some of the Coronado property tax monies that were now going to the State under the Proposition 13 funding formula back to Coronado to eliminate the blight caused by inadequate public facilities. With the agreement of CUSD, the CDA identified the increase in tax increment that would have gone to the school district each year based on the growth in Coronado property taxes, as the funding source. This source was chosen by both agencies because under a different California law, that amount would still come to the school district from other state revenue to keep CUSD financially whole.

CUSD and the City, through public workshops for each agency and then joint meetings of the CDA, adopted a Redevelopment Plan in accordance with state law to replace government buildings, and improve City downtown amenities. Coronado’s list of projects included new or remodels of the: Police Station, City Hall, Library, Fire Station, Pool, Tennis Center, Boat House, public restrooms, and many others. CUSD’s list of projects included new or remodels of the: Village Elementary School, Strand Elementary School, Middle School, High School, Administrative Building, Sports Complex, and Early Childhood Development Center. The CDA was able to expedite the funding of projects by bonding against the CDA revenue from the state in future years. During the 26 year life of the CDA, the Agencies refined their list of projects and renegotiated the development agreement between them to allow the CUSD needed buildings to be built first as the proceeds from the CDA came in.

Although the revitalization of the downtown, and erection of several new city and school buildings did increase the property and sales tax revenues to the City and the tax increment, the  City Council chose to loan the CDA money beginning in 1992 to complete the city buildings earlier than was possible under the current state funding.

In 2012, all redevelopment agencies, including Coronado’s CDA were dissolved by the Legislature. Per State law, Coronado elected to become the Successor Agency to the CDA to wrap up projects and administer payments of the CDA’s enforceable obligations, which after Coronado’s lawsuit against the State, included all of the existing bond obligations, the City loans to the CDA, and agreements the CDA had with the Hospital Foundation. Per State law, the Successor Agency would continue to receive the tax increment funding until all of the bonds, the City loans, and the agreement with the Hospital Foundation were paid off in 2035 when the Successor Agency would be dissolved.

While the decision to use the CUSD tax increment as the funding source for redevelopment resulted in virtually all new buildings and facilities for CUSD with no loss of revenue for 28+ years, the state legislature changed school funding formulas again in 2013-14 to redistribute more money to school districts with disadvantaged students. Today CUSD receives nearly $1,500 less per student than San Diego Unified and many other area school districts.

In an effort to help CUSD return to a better student funding status, known as “Basic Aid” the City acting as the Successor Agency voted in June to refinance the CDA debt to accelerate repayment and allow the dissolution in 2027. Once the Successor Agencies enforceable obligations are paid off, CUSD will enter Basic Aid status nine years sooner and will receive several million more a year in state funds.

What’s Next

CUSD has limited options to increase revenue prior to reaching Basic Aid status. The 2014 CUSD ballot measure requesting voters agree to a limited parcel assessment for school needs did not receive the necessary votes to pass and despite acknowledgement from lawmakers that certain districts lose in the new school funding formula, there is no will in Sacramento to change the current formula. While the City is prohibited by law from making gifts of public funds to CUSD, we hope our community will stay engaged and provide input as the City and CUSD continue to work together to find additional ways to collaborate and best use public resources to help Coronado residents and students.

Coronado City Councilwoman Carrie Downey and
Coronado Unified School District Trustee Maria Simon

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Originally from upstate New York, Dani Schwartz has lived in Coronado since 1996. She is thrilled to call Coronado home and raise her two children here. In her free time enjoys hitting the gym, reading, and walking her dog around the “island.” Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: manager@coronadotimes.com