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Big freeze for VVUHSD
Victorville school district halts purchases, construction
VICTORVILLE • Several rows of metal folding chairs sat empty in the large cafeteria at Victor Valley High School. Only a handful of concerned parents and staff turned out for Monday's community forum, and those in attendance were there for one thing and one thing only — the budget.
Districtwide spending freezes have halted all purchases and construction as the district says it is doing everything it can to keep the school from insolvency and possible state takeover.
The only construction projects that will continue are the new Adelanto High School and Silverado High School’s new sports field, as these two projects are almost fully completed, said Ruben Rojas, assistant superintendent of business services.
Immediately before the community forum, the board of trustees held an information meeting about their next steps and, according to Rojas, the district is looking at all possible options.
On Saturday, the district has a $27.5 million payment due to US Bank for a Bond Anticipation Note.
“By not making that payment by Dec. 1, we will have decades-long consequences,” said Adam Bauer, a principal at Fieldman Rolapp & Associates, a finance firm that advises school districts. In September of 2014, the district will also have to pay another $47 million BAN payment, totaling about $75 million.
In order to pay that initial bill on Saturday, the district is entertaining the idea of asking construction vendors if they are willing to negotiate and defer $16 million in invoices for 60 days. This would buy the district some time so they could meet their BAN obligations and apply for a TRAN, a tax revenue anticipation note.
Bauer explained that a TRAN is more difficult to obtain for a district in “negative” status, such as VVUHSD.
A negative status, Rojas explained, means a district cannot meet this year’s financial obligations, like payroll, which take up 95 percent of the district’s budget.
“The state average for salaries and benefits is about 85 percent,” said Rojas. “We are well above that.”
Although Bauer urged the board to pursue a TRAN, many of the members expressed their concern over the method of making the construction vendors wait for their payments, as many of them are smaller companies who have to be able to pay their employees as well.
“We are ultimately responsible for everybody,” said board member Barbara Dew. “We don’t want to tick off any of our vendors. Not one.”
Both Rojas and Steven Desist, assistant superintendent of human resources, tried to explain to the small group of parents the complexities of school finance, explaining to them that a state takeover would last about 25 years and devastate the community.
“The most important thing is that we learn from this situation,” Rojas told the small audience. “We never want to be in this position again.”
Lynnea Lombardo may be reached at (760) 951-6232 or at LLombardo@VVDailyPress.com.
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