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San Diego County Office of Education offers $12M loan to Sweetwater Union High School District

Posted at 11:26 AM, Jul 24, 2019

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The embattled Sweetwater Union High School District is getting some help from the county in paying off its debt.

On Wednesday, the San Diego County Board of Education voted 4-1 in favor of a $12 million loan to the school district.

The Voice of San Diego first reported earlier this week that the COE was considering the loan, which the Sweetater Union High School District did not ask for.

RELATED: Parents blast district’s plan to cut school bus routes

Despite the COE's approval of the loan, the Sweetwater District still has to decide whether to accept the funding. A district spokesperson said no official decision on the loan has been made. If the district were to accept the loan, they would owe the $12 million plus interest and have to pay it back by June 30, 2020.

If the district were to decline the loan, the COE has the authority to take the money back.

The Sweetwater District is currently facing a state audit for possible fraud and for borrowing from a special facilities tax, known as Mello-Roos, to stay financially afloat.

10News learned the loan would repay the money borrowed from the tax.

At one point in 2018, the district’s debt was at $78 million. The district finished the previous school year at $12 million in debt, which county officials say is a violation of state law.

Sweetwater District officials have said money borrowed from the Mello-Roos tax fund -- which is generally used for construction -- is intended for the district anyway and there is a plan in place to pay the money back by June 2020.

RELATED: Sweetwater District approves recovery plan to balance budget

The state’s audit of the Sweetwater District won’t be completed until this fall.

Meanwhile, some are concerned that the loan won't address Sweetwater's other problems that are impacting students, including the reduction of more than 20 school bus routes, elimination of laptop computers for high school seniors, and the early retirement of hundreds of employees in an attempt to balance its budget.