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Guest Column: Maintain schools, maintain home values

April 27, 2011|By Todd Andrews

I have attended several La Cañada social events recently. Invariably, cocktail and dinner chatter has included spirited discussions about our local schools in general, and class size and school funding in particular. And while there are differing opinions about specific issues, such as the trade-offs associated with permit students, there is a shared sense of frustration.

The fundamental issues facing our blue-ribbon school district are the erosion of funding caused by our state budget issues and shrinking enrollment. Our school board has been able to identify short-term solutions, but the underlying issues will compound over time.

Community support of the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation in its efforts to supplement our core curriculum and voter support of the parcel tax enacted in 2009 demonstrate that we recognize the need for alternative funding sources. Unfortunately, it’s easy to look at these collective efforts and feel like we’ve done enough.

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To help us all feel a greater level of comfort with doing more, I offer a little financial analysis. The critical premises of my thinking are: 1) the quality of La Cañada schools is the primary driver of our premium real estate values, and 2) we need to reinvest in our schools to maintain this premium that has taken years of investment and effort to build.

I have confirmed the first assumption with an informal poll of three of the most prolific real estate agents in our community who, without hesitation or exception, identified our schools as the primary reason people buy homes in La Cañada.

There are a number of homes on the western flank of La Cañada, an area known as the Sagebrush, that are not in the La Cañada Unified School District. A comparison of the values of La Cañada homes within and outside LCUSD demonstrates the value of our high-performing schools. Based on 2010 home sales in La Cañada, those homes within LCUSD boundaries enjoyed a 22% premium per square foot. Other than schools, there is little difference between the two sections of town. Our primary community services, police and fire protection, are provided by the same agencies. There is little difference between our crime rates. We share the same view of our beautiful, albeit scorched, mountains.

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