The San Luis Obispo County civil grand jury recommends that the region’s 10 school districts make further budget cuts and pursue additional tax money to balance their budgets.
The latest report from the grand jurors focuses on the financial struggles of local school districts and notes that all are spending more money than they are receiving.
The report, titled “Are Paso Robles School Budgetary Woes a Lesson for Other Districts?” is particularly critical of the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District, which had to file a negative certification earlier this year because it could not meet its financial obligations.
As a result, the school district had to cut an additional six days of class to avoid being taken over by the state.
The report accuses the school board and superintendent of ignoring dwindling reserves.
Kathy McNamara, superintendent of the Paso school district, said she was “shocked” that the grand jury suggested that the district hadn’t taken steps to avoid its financial situation.
“I don’t think laying off as many people as we did is doing nothing,” McNamara said. “We did do our due diligence, and with reduced funding from the state, this is what happens.”
McNamara also said she felt the jurors’ report fell short by not focusing more on the state budget.
“The big elephant in the room is the state budget,” McNamara said.
The grand jury report suggests that the county’s other school districts take precautions to avoid getting into a similar situation.
Recommendations include additional training in budgeting and financial oversight for school board members.
The report also advises that the Atascadero, Lucia Mar, Paso Robles, San Miguel and Shandon school districts “seriously consider” a parcel tax as an additional revenue source.
However, the grand jury admits that while a parcel tax is a viable source of additional revenue, it requires two-thirds voter approval and might be difficult to pass in the current economy.
The Paso Robles school board rejected a parcel tax initiative in 2010 because it didn’t feel that it would be supported by voters.
The trustees are now discussing pursuing a general obligation bond, McNamara said.
The grand jury’s recommendations are nonbinding.
Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.