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L.A. Community Colleges Tell of 3-Year Belt-Tightening Plan

Times Education Writer

Faced with a $5-million deficit, the Los Angeles Community College District announced Wednesday a three-year plan to “downsize” the nine-campus system, one that will cut the number of administrative and teaching jobs, shrink the size of the district headquarters and possibly lead to the first layoffs of full-time instructors.

College officials had no choice but to scale back operations. Enrollment in the nine colleges has fallen by nearly a third since 1982, and state funding is tied directly to the number of registered students.

Two weeks ago, the college district appealed to the county and the state for loans to make up for the $5-million shortfall in this year’s budget. As a condition of getting the state loan, which is still pending in Sacramento, district officials had to prepare a three-year repayment plan.

District officials portray the budget plan and a staff reorganization as a tough balancing act, one they hope can reduce costs without furthering the downward spiral of the two-year colleges.

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“We’re not taking a meat ax approach, and we don’t want to put out the message that we’re closing down the colleges,” said Norm Schneider, district spokesman. Instead, district officials think they can make most of the reductions through attrition and early retirements.

In November, the district trustees, four of whom were running in the spring elections, agreed to a 6% raise for the faculty and staff, even though budget officials said the colleges did not have enough money to pay the cost.

Three board members--Arthur Bronson, Wallace Albertson and Lindsay Conner--won reelection while trustee Rick Tuttle was elected city controller.

Still, the district’s financial plight stems directly from the sharp enrollment decline that began in 1982, said district Chancellor Leslie Koltai.

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As the district’s income fell, it “has taken a humane approach (of) cutting things before people,” Koltai said. As a result, he said, “we are personnel heavy.” About 88% of the district’s budget goes for personnel, he said, up from 75% in the late 1970s.

But Koltai refuted a charge heard often from faculty and from former Los Angeles school board member Richard Ferraro, who unsuccessfully challenged Bronson earlier this month, that the administration has escaped the pain of cutbacks.

Since 1982, the number of part-time instructors has dropped by 25%, classified employees by 27%, administrators by 26% and full-time faculty by 11%, Koltai said. Because of the enrollment decline, the colleges have some faculty members without classes to teach. Those who are teaching full-time have “significantly lower class sizes” than called for in the collective bargaining contract, he said.

The three-year budget plan, which was presented to the trustees Wednesday, calls for a 10% cut in the administrative staff in each of the next two years, Koltai said.

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Resisted Layoffs

While officials would not say that regular faculty members will be laid off--the trustees have steadily resisted any such plan in other years--the budget plan says spending “will be reduced as a result of reductions to full-time and part-time faculty and . . . administrative personnel. These reductions will be effected through a combination of attrition, retraining and terminations.”

Despite the budget troubles, Koltai said he was cautiously optimistic that enrollment will stabilize in the fall. He said the colleges are doing a better job of recruiting students from local high schools and putting more effort into preparing them to transfer after two years to a four-year university.

“The days of what some have called the ‘smorgasbord program’ are over. We can’t afford the same rich variety of courses we once had,” Koltai said in an interview. “We have to narrow our scope . . . and concentrate on a basic quality program.”

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