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LAGUNA BEACH | Community News Focus

School Board Will Borrow to Help Offset Budget Deficit

September 19, 1996|LESLIE EARNEST

Still seeking solutions to ongoing budget woes, trustees of Laguna Beach Unified School District retained a law firm Tuesday night to prepare certificates of participation that the district can sell to raise money.

Though that method of borrowing is typically used only to construct new schools, trustees say they could also use the money to reimburse the district for the $500,000 it spent to rebuild classrooms at Thurston Middle School, which burned in the city's 1993 firestorm.

"This is a very reasonable thing for us to do," Jackson E. Parham, the district's interim superintendent, said Wednesday. "This probably offers us the lowest possible interest rate to obtain money."

The details of the transaction will be worked out in coming weeks, including exactly how much money the district will try to raise. School officials said previously they would have to borrow $600,000 to help offset a $1.2-million shortfall in the current budget.

To meet a state-mandated deadline, trustees adopted a $13.3-million spending plan earlier this month, acknowledging that they would have to cut salaries and borrow money to balance the budget.

The district, which is continuing labor talks over salary reductions, is supposed to report back to the county's Department of Education by Oct. 8 to show how it plans to resolve the shortfall.

School officials say they are unlikely to have clear-cut solutions by then, but they continue to work closely with the county to resolve the situation and do not expect the county to have to take over the district's operations.

"The district, the board--we are all committed to doing the right thing," Parham said.

The board has been struggling with a fiscal crisis since August, when a consultant found a bookkeeping error that resulted in a shortfall of about $650,000. Closer scrutiny of the budget uncovered unexpected expenses that ballooned the deficit to $1.2 million.

At Tuesday night's special meeting, the trustees approved a $10,000 contract with the Newport Beach law firm Straddling, Yocca, Carlson & Rauth.

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