The Hesperia Unified School District is one of 174 public school districts statewide to end up on the State Superintendent of Public Instruction's list of schools that are having "trouble meeting their financial obligations."
Two Victor Valley school districts, the HUSD and Lucerne Valley Unified School District, were among 160 districts to receive a "qualified" certification of their financial status, meaning the districts "may not meet [their] financial obligations for the current or two subsequent fiscal years."
Fourteen other districts received "negative" certifications, meaning the districts in question "will be unable to meet [their] financial obligations for the remainder of the current year or for the subsequent fiscal year."
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack McConnell's announcement Tuesday morning wasn't unexpected.
"The watch list is mostly made up of districts that self-certified as qualified," HUSD Assistant Superintendent of Business Services David McLaughlin said Tuesday afternoon.
The Hesperia school district, the Victor Valley's largest and its largest single employer, has been struggling to close a remaining $8.4 million budget gap, which it's seeking to do with concessions from the teachers union. (The other two employee groups in the district made approximately $4.6 million in concessions earlier this year.)
Talks between the district and the union officially ended in impasse earlier this year, and a state fact-finding board's report, which will rule on both the HUSD's and union's positions in the standoff and recommend ways to close the gap, is due by July 13. In the meantime, talks are still continuing between the two parties, via a mediator, according to McLaughlin.
"Without the reductions that we're looking for, we're probably going to have to go after other programs in order to balance the budget," he said.
This likely won't be the last year school districts are faced with tough choices before economic conditions improve.
Experts "are indicating that they're seeing slight improvements, but are still cautioning districts for two to three years of severe difficulty," McLaughlin said. "We're always optimistic that it'll get better quicker, but we have to be prepared for the long process."
There are 1,077 public school districts in California.
Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.