MDUSD appealing to Supreme Court over unfavorable ruling regarding CVCHS facility fees lawsuit

MDUSD appealing to Supreme Court over unfavorable ruling regarding CVCHS facility fees lawsuit
Clayton Valley Charter’s multi-use room was scheduled for a $350,000 renovation half a decade ago before that was among the projects put on hiatus due to the contracted dispute between the school and MDUSD over annual facility fees due the district. That dispute is now headed for the California Supreme Court. (Jay Bedecarré photo)

CONCORD, CA (Nov. 11, 2021) — In August, Clayton Valley Charter began its 10th school year as a public charter high school after leaving Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Almost since the time the County Board of Education formally approved the charter conversion application in early 2012 there have been issues between the school and district.

The longest running matter concerns the amount MDUSD is to receive as annual reimbursement from CVCHS for the use of the District-owned campus on Alberta Way in Concord.

The charter school got a favorable ruling Oct. 1 from the California First District Court of Appeal concerning the lawsuit pitting district vs. charter school. MDUSD announced this week that it will appeal that ruling to the California Supreme Court.

The latest development in this saga comes after last month’s ruling in favor of CVCHS that remanded the lawsuit back to Contra Costa Superior Court. Judge Steven AustIn had ruled in 2019 that the District was due about $1.5 million for the 2013-2017 time period, substantially more than either the charter school or MDUSD had calculated for the use of school facilities.

October 1, 2021 Court of Appeal ruling

In October 2019 as it was seeking a five-year charter renewal from the County, CVCHS paid the district $925,256 for facility use in the 2013-17 school years. (The charter school says it has paid the District $2.2 million in reimbursement since 2013.) Both sides recognize their dispute on the calculation of fees can have far-reaching effects around the state where many public charter schools use facilities from local school districts.

The charter school reported in its weekly newsletter to parents and stakeholders last month: “The California First District Court of Appeal issued a unanimous published decision in Clayton Valley Charter High School v. Mt. Diablo Unified School District that was a decisive victory for CVCHS and charter schools on the issue of how to properly calculate the pro-rata share. The case involved the interpretation of the regulation that defines which school district ‘facilities costs’ may be included in the calculation of the pro-rata share to be charged to a charter school.

“More specifically, CVCHS argued that in calculating the pro-rata share, MDUSD was required to exclude all categories of costs incurred by MDUSD for facilities services that the charter school provides and pays for itself, such as ongoing operations and maintenance of the school site. The Court of Appeal agreed with CVCHS on all fronts…As a result of this decision, a charter school cannot be charged twice for operations and maintenance services, and school districts cannot receive a windfall through the pro-rata share.”

CVCHS Message to the Community Nov. 10, 2021

The District also issued a statement which read, in part: “In issuing its ruling, the Superior Court Judge offered an interpretation of the Proposition 39 regulations that would have resulted in MDUSD receiving fees in future years significantly higher, by several multiples, than MDUSD had sought or collected in past years. CVCHS appealed the decision, and the court of appeal reversed the Superior Court Judge’s order and its interpretation that would have allowed the District, and school districts statewide, to collect the significantly higher fee.

“The impact of the court of appeal’s decision on the fees to be paid by the charter school remains to be seen, pending future proceedings before the Superior Court. The case involves interpretation of regulations that are based upon school district accounting and budgeting conventions from the California School Accounting Manual, and the court of appeal acknowledged that the legal issues were complex and involved interpretation of a regulation that had not yet previously been ruled on by a court.

The court of appeal also stated that CVCHS “shall recover its costs on appeal.”

District spokesperson Theresa Harrington added, “We do not comment on ongoing litigation, so have no further comments at this time.”

Another byproduct of the dispute is that $1.448 million earmarked for facility improvements at CVCHS through the voter-approved $348 million general obligation bond Measure C of 2010 has been frozen pending resolution of the lawsuit. Measure C is projected to complete its few remaining projects this upcoming summer with will leave only the Clayton Valley Charter monies to be spent.

Projects originally targeted to be completed with those funds on the Clayton Valley Charter campus included multi-use room renovation, PE building improvements including boys lockerroom, stadium tech improvements, library tech upgrades, fencing, marquee and pathway improvements.

For more School News from the Concord Clayton Pioneer, click here.

Jay Bedecarré
Jay Bedecarré
Sports and Schools Editor at The Concord Clayton Pioneer | | Website

Jay Bedecarré is a long-time resident and writer in Concord and Clayton. He began his newspaper writing career while still a senior at Mt. Diablo High School and he has been part of The Pioneer since its inception in 2003. Jay also operates Bay Area Festivals, presenting events around the San Francisco Bay Area including Bay Area KidFest annually in Downtown Concord.