It might be the season of hope that is guiding the decision makers at Ramona Unified School District (RUSD) because the employees, Administration and School Board seem collectively unified in the idea that the only way out of the looming fiscal mess is to pass a school bond that has failed 5 times previously. It’s good that they are unified because they need to resolve some pressing issues very soon, or the school district will be in the red as soon as 2013. It’s not good that they are unified because they seem unable or unwilling to see what is really happening, a slow degradation of our school system to pay off a ballooning debt.
There are a couple of constants that I consider when pondering the future of our school system. 1. No amount of employee sacrifices can fix the long-term debt wave that is engulfing the school district. 2. The district cannot default on the bond payments issued by the previous school board, and the bondholders will get their money. 3. The district can either pass a school bond that has failed five times in a row, or surrender the school district to the state.
If the current path of hope is chosen, there will be continued cuts in every sphere until 2032. If the State option is chosen, the debt will be paid off quickly, many jobs quickly disrupted, followed by a number of years of hard times until the State gets it’s money back. If a school bond is passed by some miracle, then it’s good times again at RUSD, but I wouldn’t bet on that happening.
In the near-term the Administration seems focused on the next 2~3 years apparently convinced that if the employees give up enough they may be able to balance the books. After that, all bets are off, unless a large influx of money comes in from somewhere. The projected debt requires annual ballooning payments that will top $3M by 2032, and I can’t imagine even a very wealthy benefactor coming to the rescue. The long-term outlook is dire.
I believe that the district is embarking on a slow death, with continued cuts well into the future and no end in sight. They are loath to embrace the only available solution, other than a bond, surrendering the school district to the State, and start anew from wherever that takes us. I can understand why they don’t want to embrace this solution, because it will severely disrupt so many lives in the valley. Teachers will leave, and Administrators will be fired, and compensation packages cut. But the disruption is coming anyway, with the slow-death version, or the State version.
It is apparent that the current Administration backed by the employees and School Board will follow the path of hope rather than decisiveness, and until that changes, we the public can only watch it evolve, painful as it may be. We can however try and lessen the impact somewhat with our hands and time, in the form of volunteering to repair, clean up or otherwise assist where the district needs work. Without decisiveness on the part of the leadership, hope is all we have.