Layoffs Proposed in Beverly Hills Schools

Times Staff Writer

Beverly Hills School Supt. Leon Lessinger has proposed a plan to cut the district's staff by 90 positions to reduce the anticipated budget deficit by $2.4 million.

The proposal includes eliminating through layoffs and attrition teachers and teachers' aides, librarians, custodial and maintenance workers, gardeners and counselors. It would affect such programs as computer science, foreign language, music and art, athletics and driver education.

Lessinger disclosed the extensive list of cuts at the Beverly Hills Board of Education meeting Tuesday night. They would reduce by two-thirds an anticipated $3.7-million deficit in the district's $26-million budget in the 1986-87 school year.

"I think that as painful as the cuts may be, they will still leave us with an excellent program, just curtailed from the level we have had," Lessinger said.

School officials said they will conduct public forums on the proposal at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 5 at Beverly Hills' Hawthorne School and Feb. 6 at Beverly Vista. The school board will decide on Feb. 25 which cuts to make.

State law requires the district to issue notices by March 15 for September layoffs. School board President Frank Fenton said that because the cuts will not cover the entire deficit, the district is looking at other ways of raising money, including seeking a new tax on each parcel of land in the city.

However, Fenton said, a new tax would require a two-thirds vote of the city for approval. "That would be impossible at this time," Fenton said.

First, he said, "we have to pare the budget down to a reasonable level and then we will go to the community and raise all kinds of hell for affirmative votes."

Lessinger lists 46 separate items for reduction. If implemented the student-teacher ratio would increase from 22.5 to 1 to nearly 28 to 1, the maximum allowed by the district.

"Since 1982, the school district's expenditures have exceeded its income," Lessinger said. "We have successfully filed a legal budget with the county and the state each year by covering the deficit with money from reserve accounts." Those reserves are drying up, he said.

On another matter, the board voted Tuesday to give Lessinger authority to act in its behalf should the Beverly Hills Teachers Assn. call a strike or work stoppage. Lessinger would be authorized to hire substitute teachers for the duration of any work stoppage.

Negotiations between the teachers association and the district have been stalled for months.

The board's action was taken in response to the overwhelming vote last week by the teachers' association authorizing its leadership to call a strike if the district imposes its own settlement. The teachers voted 228 to 27 to give its representatives the authority to call a strike.

Both sides said that negotiations are expected to resume after the release of an independent fact finder's report within the next week. The proposed cuts are expected to be included in the negotiations.

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