It’s an unfortunate truth that California’s students can be gravely impacted by the irresponsible spending habits of the school districts they reside in. A prime example of this lack of fiscal awareness was recently demonstrated by the Sweetwater School District.
County officials predict that the district may have to cut $36 million out of their budget next year—$12 million more than anticipated. Sweetwater is the state’s largest high school-only district, covering more than 39,000 students with a total budget of $479 million.
These aren’t the first cuts they’ve had to make, as the district recently had to revoke essential bus transportation from students at San Ysidro High, where about 80 percent of students are at a socioeconomic disadvantage.
Why the $12 million increase in cuts? The county office found inaccuracies in budget reporting that resulted in Sweetwater being worse off than presented. Among other factors, the district didn’t account for $1.2 million in borrowing interests to their own Mello-Roos and tax funds. They also owe $419,000 to the county treasury for a loan, and are projected to outspend their budget for salaries and benefits by about $3 million.
The fact that these inaccuracies were even found is absolutely appalling. It’s a good thing that the county office was able to rectify the issues, but that doesn’t mask the fact that Sweetwater refused to take responsibility for their financial problems through writing inaccurate statements.
They’re unaccountable, fiscally destructive, and disappointing, especially to the families residing in the district.