SANTA CRUZ -- A top Pacific Collegiate School official said Wednesday the charter school will likely deliver a counteroffer to its landlord, Santa Cruz City Schools, today to stay at its campus for another year or longer -- a move that prolongs the facilities saga.
Ken Cole, chair of the PCS facilities committee, said the board did not reach a conclusion on terms of the counteroffer in its first closed-session period Wednesday night but planned to revisit the matter behind closed doors after concluding its regular meeting.
Cole declined to say whether PCS would offer to pay more than its latest offer or agree to limiting the lease extension to one or two years, which the district has requested. But he said the board was working Wednesday to respond to the district's proposed terms.
"We're pushing as hard as we can to achieve a counteroffer that will be delivered to the district by tomorrow," Cole said Wednesday, adding that there were many undisclosed points the district wanted PCS to approve beyond price. "We are coming much closer to settling a number of those points, but we haven't closed the gap completely."
District board President Cynthia Hawthorne said trustees were open to continuing negotiations.
"We will definitely consider their counteroffer but we really feel like the offer we gave to them was very appropriate, very pragmatic, very fair and a win-win for all of us," she said.
PCS, a national award-winning school of about 460 students in grades 7-12, has leased the district's 35,000-square-foot Natural Bridges Elementary site for an annual average of $200,000 under a five-year deal that will expire in June.
The district had asked PCS to respond by today to a proposal that would let the school stay for one additional year, and possibly a second, for an undisclosed annual lease fee lower than the $425,000 the district sought when negotiations started in early spring. The district said that figure was fair-market value for the Westside site.
The charter school's first offer was $130,000, which it based on a state calculation under charter school law, but it later upped its offer after the district declined. The two sides didn't talk again until recent months, when public pressure mounted against the district to restart talks for a market lease despite a simultaneous filing by PCS of Proposition 39 claim for district facilities.
The district said it agreed to accept a new lease extension offer from PCS because the school's only other option -- short of renting space not owned by the district -- is to accept a Proposition 39 offer that would break up the school into at least two sites.
PCS has contended the district's asking price should be lowered to account for its obligations under the eight-year-old state law to provide space for the percentage of a charter school's students who live within the district's boundaries.