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Calexico Unified School District (left) and Calexico City Hall (right). | FILE PHOTO ILLUSTRATION

Calexico: City Still Eyeing Claim Filed by School District Over Unpaid Fees

CALEXICO — City officials are still reviewing an amended claim submitted by the Calexico Unified School District over what the district says is the “city’s failure to ensure construction project applicants paid the district’s school impact fees as required by law.”

The school district on Friday, Oct. 23, issued a press release announcing the claims against the city and threatening to sue if the claim is not addressed.

“The district is prepared to file a lawsuit if the city does not grant the district’s Oct. 1, 2020, claim as amended on Oct. 21, 2020,” according to the district’s press release.

The district filed an initial claim over the unpaid fees issue Oct. 1 but amended the claim Wednesday, Oct. 21, after adding new information.

“The district recently discovered and confirmed the discrepancies between records of building permits issued by the city and district records through a Public Records Act request for approved building permits and related information,” the district stated.

“The documents reviewed by the district show that the city issued building permits, but neglected to require certification from the district that the district had received the required fee payment for the project or a specific exemption from fee payment,” the district continued.

Meanwhile, city and school officials were both asked whether the claim had been rejected yet.

In the district’s Oct. 23 press release, a lawsuit was brought up as a “consideration” by the district as the next logical and legal step in a sequence of events that follow the rejection of a claim against the city. The process, according to state law, is after a city rejects a claim, the claimant can file a lawsuit in court. That claim automatically gets rejected after 45 days.

“Our city attorney is reviewing the claims received,” City Manager Miguel Figueroa said Tuesday, Oct. 27.

Calexico Unified spokesperson Alejandra Limon indicated there has been no movement or update since the district issued its press release Oct. 23.

District officials on Oct. 23 said they had been in contact with the city’s representative on handling claims, who informed the district that’s its claim was missing information, including the dates of alleged times that the city did not ensure the district was being paid its full fees.

Calexico City Council member Lewis Pacheco on Friday maintained the city was not aware that any claim had been issued by the school district or that there was any talk of a lawsuit.

Pacheco did say that the city opened its doors and records to school officials earlier this week and allowed to look through data tied to development fees, clearly a reference to the inspection of city documents and permits to which the district was referring.

“Apparently they were not satisfied with what was there,” Pacheco said. “But our claim is, I don’t think that we did anything wrong.”

The district, in a separate statement Friday, said its representatives visited the city on three separate occasions pursuant to its Public Records Act request, reviewing records for the previous three years.

“Numerous documents were inspected and scanned over a period of three separate visits,” the district stated.

District officials won’t say how much they have been shorted by the city, but Calexico City Council member Bill Hodge on Oct. 23 said the number is “over $1 million.”

Pacheco said the city does not believe that the district was shortchanged or denied any development fees to which it was entitled, adding, “we don’t work that way.”

Pacheco said that to his knowledge all development fees pass directly from the developer to the district, and that the city is not involved.

However, that isn’t really the district’s contention. The district stated Oct. 23 that in issuing a building permit, the developer must show the city proof that it had made the district whole on impact fees due.

In its release, the district stated:

“Under California law, the impact fee payments from construction projects are one of only a very limited number of options available to pay for costs for upkeep and construction of new school facilities that will be required by the students enrolled with the district. The fact that the city has issued building permits without following its legal obligations has put the district in an untenable position with regard to paying for increased facilities needs to house students in this community.

“To address this issue with the city, and reflecting the severity of not having enough funding for its school facilities, the district has undertaken the following:

  • “The district filed a claim with the city and an amended claim to make the city aware of the issues.
  • “The district approached the city with a request to enter an agreement, so that the parties could work to resolve the issues without litigation. The City Council has not agreed to the agreement so that the parties could work cooperatively to resolve the matter, declining to act on the agreement at two separate City Council meetings.

There was a City Council meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 21, the same day as the amended claim was filed, and a meeting in which district Superintendent Carlos Gonzales was on hand to make a presentation to the council on Measure Q, the district upcoming bond election.

In closed session that night, the city discussed one lawsuit, as well as “anticipated litigation/one potential case.” It was not clear what that was, and City Attorney Carlos Campos had nothing to report following closed session.

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