Board minutes from 2007 reveal plan to attain ‘hardship status’
By KRIS REILLY, Editor
LUCERNE VALLEY • A small but spirited group of citizens gathered at the Lucerne Valley Community Center last Saturday for a discussion of the dire situation facing local schools — and the effect it may have on taxpayers.
An audience of less than 30 people listened to a brief presentation by meeting organizer Jeanmarie Taylor — which included a revelation about the school board’s motives for taking out a loan three years ago.
Taylor provided the audience with copies of an LVUSD board agenda item from June 2007, when the district decided to pursue a certificate of participation loan to finance several projects. It appears that the district’s strategy at the time was to intentionally go into debt in order to get state funding and pay for new campuses.
Here’s an abbreviated excerpt from the school board document: “The debt that the district will incur will put the district into ‘State Hardship’ status, which means 100 percent funding from the state, allowing us to have a new elementary and middle school at no cost to the community. ... The district’s plan is to have the annual revenue from the two recently approved charter schools pay back the loan. A worst case scenario would be that the district would have to go to the community for a general obligation bond in three years to repay the 9 million dollar debt if the revenue from both charters is less than anticipated. The most exciting part for Lucerne Valley is the community will be getting two new schools without raising taxes.”
Nearly three years later, the funding from the charter schools has not materialized, the state is slashing education spending, and the first large payment on the loan is due in August.
The district is now faced with its “worst case scenario” — pursuing a general obligation bond measure on the June ballot. The board will vote on whether it will pursue the bond measure in open session at tonight’s board meeting, held at the district offices on Aliento Road at 6 p.m.
The measure will raise local property tax rates by a maximum of roughly $60 per year per $100,000 worth of property for landowners within the district’s attendance area.
No members of the school board, nor any teachers, attended Saturday’s meeting. However, the Save our Schools committee was represented by local citizen Sam Hart, who answered audience questions for roughly an hour. SOS members Marty Brander and Karol Thompson were also present, along with a handful of local classified (non-teacher) school employees.
After Taylor’s presentation, Hart faced a number of pointed questions and comments during the session. The general tone was one of anger at the board, fear of having taxes raised and fear of losing one of Lucerne Valley’s campuses and having students bussed elsewhere.
More than one audience member suggested that the school board should step down.
“The community is really upset with the school board,” Hart said in response. “Because the school board made some decisions, even though they received bad advice, they made some decisions that they shouldn’t have made, and that’s obvious. ... Let’s fix our problems first, and then we’ll go after school board second. So there actually is a plan to first, fix our problems at the school. Second, support candidates who would be willing to run for the school board as those positions come up.”
Three school board positions will be up for reelection in the fall.
Hart said he has set up another meeting at the Community Center on Saturday, March 20 at 2 p.m. He said all interested parties are welcome to attend and to ask questions.
Kris Reilly can be reached at email@example.com or at (760) 985-8372.