By Richard Irwin, San Gabriel Valley Tribune
POSTED: 03/13/15, 8:10 PM PDT
Rowland and Hacienda La Puente school districts will receive more than $42 million to settle a lawsuit with Industry and its former redevelopment agency.
“We’re pleased with the settlement, it was an amicable agreement,” said Hacienda La Puente Superintendent Cindy Parulan-Colfer.
Rowland Superintendent Julie Mitchell said her district was also happy with the settlement.
“All the parties are satisfied with this settlement,” agreed Richard Terzian, a partner with Burke, Williams and Sorensen, the law firm that represents the city.
Associate Superintendent Annie Bui said Hacienda La Puente Unified received $6.5 million in December.
“Another $12 million will be held in escrow through December of 2016,” Bui said.
Mitchell said Rowland Unified also got $8 million at the end of the year, with another $15 million in escrow.
“Under the terms of the agreement, the money has to be used on capital improvements in the school districts,” Bui explained.
Both districts are in the process of modernizing their schools, so the extra revenue should come in handy.
“Our school board wants to rebuild the athletic fields at our four high schools, as well as the swimming pool at La Puente High,” Parulan-Colfer noted.
Mitchell said Rowland Unified is completing work on the massive reconstruction of Nogales High School.
“We expect to open the new buildings to students at the beginning of the new school year,” she said.
Work is also pending on a new performing arts center and administration/classroom building at Rowland High School.
The two school districts filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit in July 2012, citing an agreement forged in 1971 that entitled them to annual payments from Industry.
That’s when Industry began setting up redevelopment zones in areas it shares with the school districts, according to documents in the lawsuit. The local districts and Mt. San Antonio College filed a lawsuit claiming the city was misusing its redevelopment powers to funnel money away from them.
In the settlement that followed, Industry agreed to pay each district an annual amount that would rise automatically each year as properties in the redevelopment zone increased in value – commonly known as a pass-through agreement, according to documents in the lawsuit.
“At least since the early ‘80s, we have no record of payment,” said Ruben Frutos, former superintendent of Rowland Unified.
Bui said Hacienda La Puente Unified also hadn’t received payments. The districts filed the lawsuit in 2012 after trying to work with the city for more than a year.
Mt. SAC officials chose not to join the lawsuit, receiving a one-time payment of $5 million from Industry.
Disputes like the one between Industry and the school districts were one of the factors that led to the elimination of redevelopment agencies by the state legislature. Gov. Jerry Brown said the agencies received property tax revenues that should have been used to fund school districts and other regional agencies such as fire districts and vector control districts.