Related story: California's 'check is in the mail forces school districts to break out credit card VICTORVILLE - The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday gave a thumbs-up to the Victor Valley Union High School District borrowing $19 million to cover its revenue shortfalls.
Public school districts around California routinely take out short-term loans, known as Tax Revenue Anticipation Notes, or TRAN, to compensate for the state providing its revenue to the districts late. (State revenue makes up the lion's share of funding in public school districts in the state.) One of the state's methods of balancing the budget in recent years has been to pay districts later, making districts scramble to be able to pay their bills on time.
Normally, it's handled as a matter of course: Districts may end up spending tens of thousands of dollars in fees annually - sometimes enough for one or more teachers' salaries - but the loans go through without a hitch.
But Victor Union has been experiencing financial turmoil in recent months. Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Ruben Rojas, hired late last year, was placed on administrative leave on Jan. 11. The district narrowly avoided what officials said would be fiscal insolvency with a last-minute deal cut with teachers on Jan. 25.
And a recent review of the district's financial status by the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools' office determined the district would not be able to meet its financial obligations for the remainder of the current year. The superintendent's office gave the district a negative interim report by the county, which meant the district needed the county to approve the loan application.
County Auditor-Controller Larry Walker stressed that San Bernardino County is not fronting the money to Victor Union, but is just affirming that the district needs to take out the loan and that the district is good for the money.
"The county is not loaning money to Victorville; the county is assisting in the process of being able to borrow the money from the people who issue the TRANs," Walker said.
It's not unknown for the county's 33 public school districts to need the county to vouch for them when getting a TRAN, but it isn't common.
"Last year or the year before, the county issued on behalf of Upland (Unified) in somewhat similar circumstances," Walker said. "It happens from time to time."
The unanimous vote was a foregone conclusion, under state law.
"The board really didn't have the option of saying no," county spokesman David Wert said. "It's completely on (the district) if they pay this off or not; they're solely liable."
Beyond covering this short-term revenue shortfall, the district needs to get its financial house in order, according to Victorville's representative on the board of supervisors.
"As County Auditor-Controller Larry Walker pointed out, no school district can afford to continue these practices," First District Supervisor Robert Lovingood said.
Representatives of the Victor Valley Union High School District could not be reached for comment by deadline.
Beau.Yarbrough@InlandNewspapers.com, 909-483-9376, @InlandEd