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No. 2 School Official Gets Loan from District for Condo

Santa Barbara school board votes to lend $150,000 to new deputy superintendent for housing assistance.

The Santa Barbara school board voted Tuesday to float a loan to the new deputy superintendent so he can purchase a condo.

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The board voted 4-0, with trustee Bob Noel absent, to lend Eric Smith $150,000, which will be used for the down payment on a place he is eyeing somewhere in the unincorporated neighborhoods between Santa Barbara and Goleta, officials said.

The loan means the school district will own a portion of Smith’s home until it is repaid, with interest, within three years.

“It has absolutely nil effect on the general fund,” trustee Kate Parker said in an e-mail. “There are no teachers that could be hired with it, etc.”

Although the contract Smith had accepted earlier this month stipulated that the district would grant Smith an interest-free loan, he opted to pay interest at the same rate the district received while the money sat in a reserve account — about 4 percent.

“I think he wants to start things on the right foot,” said school board member Nancy Harter.

Officials said that although such an offer has never been made before by the Santa Barbara school districts, providing housing assistance is a common hiring practice in Coastal California. For instance, a housing clause helped the city of Santa Barbara lure Police Chief Cam Sanchez.

Smith came to the Santa Barbara School Districts on a temporary basis in November to help sort out a budget quagmire. Early this month, he accepted the school board’s offer to become the permanent deputy superintendent.

He lives in Templeton, but his temporary contract with the district included an agreement for hotel fees, Harter said.

Smith, who will be paid $186,000 annually — which is about $5,000 more than his boss’ base salary — took the job at a time when the district is looking at cutting $4 million in programs from its $93 million discretionary budget because of California’s budget crisis.

His relatively high salary is an indication of the difficulty the district has had in attracting strong candidates for the position, especially given Santa Barbara’s singularly expensive housing market. For months, Superintendent Brian Sarvis — whose benefits package still exceeds that of his new subordinate — had been trying to persuade the school board to boost the pay for the position to better allow him to find a highly qualified candidate. (Smith’s predecessor made about $129,000.)

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