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Residents concerned over Paso Robles School District's lack of reserve funds

Posted at 10:47 PM, Sep 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-25 01:47:29-04

The Paso Robles school board had an extra $7 million in the bank a few years ago, but this year the reserve account fell to only $800,000. The dwindling savings, combined with an overall budget shortfall, is leaving people in the community concerned. Some say they lost trust in their school board.

Overspending, employee raises and creating programs the district could not afford are some of the issues which led to big budget problems.

The school board and the district's new superintendent sent out a memo last week in an effort to address the community's concerns about where their tax dollars are going

Some at the board meeting say residents have lost trust in the school board, especially the board members in office when money went missing.

"It's eroded the confidence in the school board as a result. I think that it would be a terrific, tremendous gesture if the three remaining board members who were here during the last four years just resigned," said Michael Mullen, Paso Robles resident.

"I think it would only be fair and respectful and dignified for those school board members who were part of that lack of oversight, whatever you want to call it, to step down," said a resident who spoke at the meeting.

Residents who addressed the board asked about the potential for money being stolen or used for personal gain.

In a memo, board members say they are still investigating, but the audience says an internal review isn't enough.

They want an audit of the district's budget.

"There's no way to restore to trust in the school district until an outside investigation is made," said a resident who spoke at the meeting.

Mullen says it's important for people in the community to get involved.

"Home, ranch, any piece of real estate their contributing to this, that's why you can't ignore it. You vote with your feet, you vote with your wallet and this is everyone's responsibility," said Mullen.

Superintendent Curt Debost says an audit will add to the problem, as it will likely cost about $30,000 to $50,000. He says he would rather spend the money on students, but it may be the only way to regain the public's trust.