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Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : Antelope Valley High School District Says It's Debt-Free

June 24, 1994|PHIL SNEIDERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LANCASTER — Two years after veering dangerously close to bankruptcy, the Antelope Valley Union High School District has declared itself solvent and able to operate without an outside fiscal overseer.

At a meeting Wednesday night, school board members celebrated by tearing up sheets of paper representing the district's major debts.

"We went through two very bad years of trying to get this budget balanced, and we came very close to a state takeover," board President Billy Pricer said Thursday. "We've recovered in record time.

"We'll no longer have to have a fiscal adviser from the county, but the county is still going to watch us very closely."

The district, which has about 12,500 students and operates six schools, was placed under special supervision in 1992 after administrators determined that the district was deeply in debt. Ultimately, the shortfall was estimated at about $12 million, and the district had to obtain an $8-million loan from the county to continue operating.

The Los Angeles County Office of Education assigned retired school administrator Norman Miller to oversee the district's finances, giving him authority over spending decisions. At Wednesday's meeting, the school board gave a plaque of appreciation to Miller.

To erase the debt, district officials eliminated more than 100 non-teaching jobs--such as secretaries and maintenance workers--and did not hire new teachers to take the place of those who retired or resigned. In addition, all district employees received a 7% cut in pay in 1992.

As a result of the budget cuts, class sizes have grown and the schools have run low on textbooks and supplies. "These last two years have been just horrible," said Con Oamek, assistant superintendent for business.

But he said the district, which just adopted a balanced $53-million budget for the coming year, is now in much better shape. "We owe nothing. We have no debt," Oamek said. "Our credit card is paid off."

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