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School Staff Defies Board on Finances : Education: Despite vote rejecting report, administrators tell the county the ABC district may go broke without budget cuts.


ABC school district administrators have reported to the county that the school system may become insolvent within three years unless the school board approves a multimillion-dollar budget-cutting plan.

Administrators submitted their report in apparent defiance of the school board majority, which argued that the ABC Unified School District is in good financial shape.

Under state law, the district had until today to submit to the county education office a three-year projection of the school system's financial condition. The school board met for six hours Tuesday in an effort to agree on what the report would say.

But at the end of a sometimes contentious meeting, board members and administrators could reach no consensus on the financial health of the school district.

District administrators argued repeatedly that the district must report to the county that the school system might become bankrupt within three years.

But the board majority disagreed.

The board voted 4 to 3 not to approve the report. Board President Cecy Groom and other board members argued that the district's financial picture is not as gloomy as it was portrayed by the staff. The skepticism of Groom and other board members frustrated Assistant Supt. Patricia Reid Koch, who is in charge of business services.

"It is distressing to me that we continue to hear that the numbers we present cannot be trusted," Koch said.

The district needs to cut about $2.5 million from the budget within the next two months to correct the school system's long-term financial problems, Koch said. She added that the district's financial problems have been exacerbated by a tentative contract agreement with teachers that is up for board approval later this month.

The contract restores some earlier concessions imposed on teachers by the previous school board majority. That imposed contract helped spark an 11-day teachers strike last fall. During the strike, voters ousted Board President Catherine Grant, resulting in a new board majority that supported teachers' demands for a new contract.

Board President Groom faulted senior staff members for not taking into account $1 million in cuts that the board ordered administrators to draw up for board approval within the next few weeks. The board members said the cuts should come from the administrative level.

Administrators said they have not identified potential cuts yet and therefore could not report them to the county. Senior staff members said they would submit the report, as they wrote it, to the county with the notation that they were doing so without the sanction of the school board.

Board members Sally Morales Havice, David Montgomery and Howard Kwon sided with Groom. Board members Robert Hughlett, Jim Weisenberger and Dixie Primosch said they were in favor of approving the report.

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