Hundreds Attend Emotional Meeting : ABC School District Cuts $2.5 Million From Budget

Times Staff Writer

The ABC Unified School District, in an emotional Tuesday night session attended by hundreds of people who crowded the board room and adjacent halls, slashed $2.5 million from its proposed 1987-88 budget.

Four administrative and 30 classified jobs were eliminated, and 30 classified employees had their hours reduced. One teaching position, in the culinary arts program, was cut.

Board member Dianne R. Xitco struggled with tears as she read a statement expressing her "pain, anger and frustration" at the necessity for the budget reductions. "Everyone affected by these cuts has contributed to the education of our children," she said.

"Its not enough," board President Elizabeth Hutcheson said of the final cuts. "We tried to cut $3 million, and we failed to do that tonight. We're trying to protect salary raises for the next year so that we can maintain the quality of the classroom instructions."

Custodians Spared

A proposed $330,000 cut, which would have eliminated 15 night custodians and forced elementary schools to be cleaned every other day instead of daily, was tabled at Tuesday's meeting and may be reconsidered before the final 1987-88 budget is approved in June. Elementary school music programs also were spared, bringing total reductions from $3 million to $2.5 million.

Although the state's actual funding for education will not be known until July or August, the district embarked on its expense-cutting operation in January in response to Gov. George Deukmejian's proposed budget, which reduced education's cost-of-living allowance to 1.1% instead of 2.2%. The district also acted in response to a legal requirement that any teaching layoffs be decided by March 15.

According to Virgil L. Hall,ABC's assistant superintendent of business services, the district would have needed a cost-of-living increase of more than 5% to keep pace with inflation and balance its estimated $83 million budget.

The board's goal in January was a reduction of $2 million. This figure did not take into account any salary increases, which are still to be negotiated.

However, as of now, Hall said, "The budget is a balanced budget."

Among the cuts:

-- Lottery funds originally slated for use by individual schools for unbudgeted projects will be retained by the district in its general fund, up to the projected income of $86 per ADA (average daily attendence). Should money be received from the lottery in excess of that amount, it will go to the schools. Proposed savings: $440,000.

-- Funding for junior high athletics was reduced, saving $58,000. Supt. Kenneth Moffett told the board that several school principals had assured him that alternate after-school athletic programs will be developed. Schools will retain $4,000 each in allocations.

-- Funding for noon supervision of campuses was eliminated, saving $207,000, and other campus supervision was reduced, saving $70,000. It was suggested that schools rearrange staff members' schedules to continue to provide supervision of their grounds.

-- The science academy was eliminated, saving $90,000. The three teachers involved will return to regular assignments.

-- Transportation costs were reduced by cutting the hours of 29 bus drivers from eight hours to six hours a day, and reducing one driver from a 12-month work year to a 10-month year. This will save $140,000.

-- The culinary arts program was eliminated, resulting in the layoffs of three classified and one teaching position, saving $60,000.

-- Curricula and staff development was reduced, prompting three layoffs and eliminating funding for such school programs as Storytelling, Band-o-Rama, the ABC Writing Project, Getty Summer Institute and others, saving $300,000.

-- The public information office was eliminated, laying off one administrator and one secretary for a savings of $90,000.

-- Other cuts eliminated administrative and clerical positions, reassigned teachers to classrooms from administrative duties, dropped employee benefits such as EASE (a counseling program) and the Wellness Program, slashed the number of community aides, closed the word processing center and reduced district library and audio visual services.

Besides elementary school music, other programs spared are high school sports and elementary and high school guidance programs. In addition, school nurses will not be replaced with health clerks, and the number of high school assistant principals will not be reduced. A proposed increase in class sizes throughout the district was also deleted from the list of cuts originally presented to the board.

More than a dozen members of the audience at the highly charged session protested the proposed cuts, particularly the elimination of elementary school music education. The move by board member Homer Lewis to remove music programs from the list of cuts brought prolonged applause.

In her statement, Xitco told the assembly, "There is an economic crises in California schools. We need to work and we need to work together, and we need to be creative."

She suggested that a public meeting of those concerned about the quality of education be held April 2 in the board room to consider alternate funding, such as corporate sponsorship and endowments for specific programs such as drug abuse and music education.

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