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Orange Schools in Black; 6% Raise Due for Teachers

Times Staff Writer

Orange Unified School District, which as recently as October was $2 million in debt, announced Friday it is ending the fiscal year June 30 with about $500,000 in unspent reserves.

Supt. Kenneth Brummel also announced that the Cinderella-like transformation of the district’s fiscal picture in the past eight months has allowed Orange Unified to offer its 1,000 teachers a 6% pay raise in a contract for the 1985-86 school year. The teachers’ union, the Orange Unified Educators’ Assn., accepted the pact on Monday, Brummel said, “and so we are the first school district in Orange County to have our contract for the coming school year ratified by the board and the (teachers’) association.”

Brummel said Orange Unified managed to go from red ink to black ink by adopting numerous cost-cutting steps. “We put a lot of controls in,” said Brummel. “Where we had anticipated spending $4 million for supplies (in the school year), we ended up only spending $3 million. We also had controls on our insurance and utility accounts in order to balance things out . . . . We’ve made many changes.”

Two Days From Strike

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Last fall, when the fiscal picture looked the blackest for the district, the school board and the teachers’ union still were at odds over a contract for the 1984-85 school year. The teachers were only two days away from a strike when the school board on Nov. 14 approved a contract that gave the educators a 3 1/2% pay hike retroactive to July 1 and gave another 1% pay increase to begin in February.

Brummel said that pay raise also was made possible by the cost-cutting steps in the district. He said the same efficiencies, several of which were recommended and adopted in management surveys of the district, have enabled the district to offer the teachers the 6% pay hike for the coming school year.

The changing fortunes of Orange Unified also have negated threatened teacher layoffs and closure of four elementary schools, Brummel noted. Despite having sent out layoff notices to employees earlier this year, Brummel said the layoffs will not be necessary. “We are losing 40 employees by attrition, but we will not lay off anyone,” Brummel said.

Rescinded Closures

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Likewise, although the school board in April voted closure of four elementary schools, the discovery of a budget error and the improved fiscal situation persuaded the board to rescind that action. The budget error, Brummel noted, was “putting into the computer twice the amount of cost for the teachers’ pay improvement last fall.”

The only school now to be closed in the district is Peralta Junior High, which the board in December had agreed to close.

Brummel acknowledged that some problems remain, notably the continuing investigation into alleged theft of an undisclosed amount of school property last year. The Orange Police Department is in charge of that investigation, and Sgt. Trey Sirks, commander of the department’s fraud unit, said this week that no announcement is likely for several months.

But Brummel said that on the whole, the school situation in Orange has improved remarkably in recent months.

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