A cautionary tale revisited

May 15, 2024

District Trustee Kenney Enney

Opinion by Kenny Enney, a Paso Robles School board trustee

The people of California were still being told that the state government was enjoying a $100 billion surplus in May 2023. But by May 2024, that surplus has become a $72 billion deficit, and projections for 2025 are a minimum of a $25 billion deficit with expectations that it will increase to $40 to $50 billion.

Although Governor Newsom has said that there will be minimum impact on education spending, those are probably empty promises.

Most school district income is generated through attendance. Average daily attendance (ADA) determines how much local, state and federal funds are provided for each student. Per the U.S. Department of Education, during the 2022/23 school year, per student, Paso Robles Jount Unified School District received $1,541 in federal funds, $4,258 in state funds and $8,987 in locals funds for a total of $14,786.

However, the district spent $15,446 for a loss of $660 per student. For 2022/23, there were approximately 6341 students in the district. Assuming a $660 loss per student, this is a total loss of $4,185,060 per year, which is approximately the budget gap the district office is forecasting.

Over spending is not our only challenge. Dropping enrollment in public schools has also impacted district finances.

Although the staff argues that declining enrollment is primarily the consequence of lower birth rates and flight from California, wait lists at local private and charter schools refute this excuse in my opinion.

One can look around the state and the nation and see over and over how communities with excellent schools are growing as young families move out of failing districts into true districts of excellence to give their children the best future they can.  The goal of the paso Robles school district should be to become a destination district. We should be the “district of excellence” that draws families to our community.

Unfortunately, that will not solve our immediate challenges.

On April 16, the SLO County Office of Education, in response to our interim budget report, that because by 2025-26 we are at risk of dropping below the 3% budget reserve required by law, the district board will be required to pass a resolution promising to take steps to “maintain solvency.” The letter can be seen on the agenda agenda for 14 May.

At the April 18 meeting, I addressed this letter and called for a special board meeting to lay out a plan on how we will cut spending. Neither the board president or staff are willing to sit down and prioritize where our spending should be focused and where we should cut.

It has been one year since I was sworn back in as a trustee on the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District Board, and I have constantly battled with Curt Dubost, Brad Pawlowski and Nathan Williams to establish a budget oversight committee to maximize transparency into the budget (specifically the general fund) and to have community involvement in budget spending prioritization.

Currently, the board, and as a result, the community we represent, has minimal impact on shaping the budget.

Consequently, we are a district of spending contradictions. We allow a school to fall into disrepair and shut it down to save $750,000 a year, but decide to build an aquatics complex that will cost $500,000 to $750,000 a year to operate. We plan on reducing the staff and faculty by 45 to save $4 million over the next three years, but spend hundreds of thousands a year on charter buses and travel.

Until the board and community take charge and establish priorities for the staff, we will continue to slip into insolvency.

San Francisco Unified School District was the latest district to be placed under State Department of Education control. Are we next? The 2020 San Luis Obispo County Grand Jury report, “A cautionary tale,” highlighted the board’s failure from 2014 until 2020 to carry out their fiduciary duties of oversight. We still have not learned.

The economic uncertainty of the coming years will require austerity measures and strong leaders. The community has a role in the decisions that must be made.


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Hold their feet to the fire Mr. Enney and eventually they will do the job that they were elected to do.

Public Trustee: a position of trust or responsibility for the benefit of the public.

Look at any of the most successful districts in the state, they have the most qualified superintendents. Your board just hired the highest paid, least experienced superintendent in our county. How can anyone take you seriously?

Give me a break. $14,800 per student is enough? Just outrageous. Do something about the waste. You’ve been brainwashed by the politicians and teachers unions.

I hate wasteful spending as much as the next conservative. Kids go to school 1000 hours a year, $14.80/hr. Not a bad price for daycare with licensed educated people that teach them as well as watch them. IMO this is the political ladder climbing administrators. These cons are always full of air talk and every achievement they make is accompanied with spending a bunch of tax dollars. I believe we need blind hiring processes for public administrators. It’s too important of a job for any corruption. They all brag about their awards but the test scores keep diving. Eric Prater lost 50 points in the last 4 years, in contrast Monterey a similar district gained 2 points despite the pandemic excuses. But man look at all the tech SLO schools have $WOW!$

Well thought out and stated.

All that said, the best paid school district in the area is Taft High. There are no Vino Robles or Viniculture just that bad smell in the air. I ask what is that smell, they say that it is the smell of money (oil). Yes, that nothingness has the best paid teachers, routine field trips and best of all a lower cost of living. Just an hour away from Paso is a quality of life for children and families with disposable income for trips to the beach communities and anywhere else a weekend can afford; they actually use their RV’s. For starters your housing cost is usually already paid off if you have been there for several years.

that nothingness has the best paid teachers”

No. Look at the charts. While Paso is very close to Taft, the higher end teachers make more. And in Santa Maria, they make a lot more.