Deukmejian Budget Puts Most Schools Into Trouble

Times Staff Writers

At least 25 of the 28 school districts in Orange County will not have enough money to pay operating expenses next year if there is no increase in Gov. George Deukmejian's proposed 1987-88 budget for state education.

A Los Angeles Times survey of all the county's districts found that some already have sent layoff notices and earmarked many teaching programs for cuts or elimination.

Only La Habra School District estimated that it could break even next year under the governor's proposed spending levels.

Officials in two other districts, Tustin Unified and Huntington Beach City, said they had no budget estimates available. But they indicated that shortfalls are likely under Deukmejian's proposed spending levels for next year. The other 25 districts said they definitely will be in a financial bind.

'Down About $4 Million'

"We'll be down about $4 million," said Terry Zimmerman, director of fiscal services for Newport-Mesa Unified School District in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa. "We're between a rock and a hard place."

Orange County education officials say the root problem is that Deukmejian's proposed budget only allows a 1.1% cost-of-living increase to the school districts for 1987-88.

Said Supt. Jerome Thornsley, of south Orange County's Capistrano Unified School District: "Just to stay where we are every year, with nothing added, costs 4% to 5% more each year. So the governor's 1.1% increase gives us at least a 3% budget shortage. It appears we'll be down about $2 million next year."

Although there is a move in the Democratic-controlled Legislature to get more money into the education budget, most Orange County educators say they are pessimistic. Deukmejian in recent years usually has vetoed budget increases for education, saying that the Legislature failed to provide sources for the added money.

But one Orange County educator had an optimistic outlook. "I am fairly confident that Bill Honig and the governor are going 'There is nothing else to cut. It just hurts us terribly to have to consider giving up some of the enrichments we have been able to provide our students in the past.'

--Mary Ellen Blanton,

Superintendent of Yorba

Linda School District

to reach a compromise," said Garden Grove Unified School District Supt. Ed Dundon. "I'm convinced that there will be more money in the (state) budget by summer."

Honig, the state superintendent of public instruction, has said he will rally statewide support for more education money next year. Deukmejian has said Honig is "a demagogue" who is running for governor.

Some Orange County school districts are mobilizing parent-teacher organizations and political action groups to try to persuade the Legislature and Deukmejian to increase next year's education budget.

In Ocean View School District in Huntington Beach and Westminster, a political action league was formed last week with that goal. "They are actively fund-raising and lobbying legislators and the governor with the objective of trying to get the governor to change his mind," said Dale Coogan, Ocean View's superintendent.

Possible Layoffs in Ocean View

Ocean View faces potential layoffs, including some assistant principals' jobs, without more money, Coogan says.

In Huntington Beach Union High School District, layoff notices have gone out, and the casualties include the district's popular high school athletic trainers, first-aid specialists who care for student athletes during practices and physical education.

Scores of parents and community leaders showed up at district board meetings in February to protest the trainers' layoffs. But the board, noting that it had no money to fall back on, chopped $100,000 from the trainer budget, leaving only $65,000 next year for part-time trainers.

"A lot of students here at Fountain Valley High have told me they're worried what's going to happen when we don't have full-time trainers next year," said Nick Ortenzo, the athletic trainer at that school.

In other districts, teachers and administrators are among those facing job losses. Officials said Saddleback Unified School District in south Orange County, for instance, may have to lay off up to 50 teachers and administrators. Fountain Valley District may lay off as many as 27 employees.

In districts that are not proposing layoffs, many cuts in programs or spending patterns are planned. Several school districts say they must divert their share of the California Lottery money into the regular budget to pay for salaries and basic costs. Educators bitterly noted that the state law implementing the new lottery specified that its funds for schools were supposed to be in addition to adequate funding for schools.

Said Mary Ellen Blanton, superintendent of Yorba Linda School District: "There is nothing else to cut. It just hurts us terribly to have to consider giving up some of the enrichments we have been able to provide our students in the past through the lottery funds."

Some districts report that they may have to tap their reserve money, which was intended for serious emergencies. Last week, state government officials warned that too many school districts already are exhausting their reserve funds.

Meliton Lopez, superintendent of Anaheim City School District, says he dreads the prospect that his district would start dipping into its emergency reserves--even though it may have to this year.

'It Was Very Scary'

"I came from a district that exhausted its reserves," said Lopez, referring to the Pacifica district in Northern California. "It was very scary."

Although general inflation is comparatively low now, some school costs are increasing rapidly. For example, several district officials say the cost of health insurance for teachers and other employees is increasing up to 20% a year.

Another higher-than-inflation factor hitting the school districts is seniority pay. School districts usually provide automatic pay increases each year for teachers as their seniority advances. In many districts, teachers also get higher pay automatically after they complete added college courses. Called "step-and-column" or "teacher salary schedules," these seniority pay raises are in addition to whatever pay hikes come through teacher-union contracts.

Coogan, superintendent of Ocean View School District, said: "Maintaining teacher salary schedules costs roughly 4%. Even if no (contract) raises are granted, the salary schedule costs us money to maintain."

Virtually all of the school officials say that they see only hard times ahead in the forthcoming year.

Said Thomas C. Halvorsen, superintendent of Savanna (elementary) School District: "I have just one general comment about the budget situation: Terrible."

BUDGET OUTLOOK FOR SCHOOL DISTRICTS IN ORANGE COUNTY

School District 87-88 Budget Shortfall* Anaheim City (Grades K-6) $39.9 million $1.8 million Anaheim Union High (7-12) $90.0 million $2.1 million Brea-Olinda Unified (9-12) $15 million $1 million Buena Park (K-8) $11.5 million $300,000 Capistrano Unified(K-12) $80 million $2 million Centralia (K-6) $16.3 million $250,000 Cypress (K-6) $16 million $225,000 Fountain Valley (K-8) $24.1 million $1.9 million Fullerton Elementary (K-8) $31 million $1 million Fullerton Joint Union High (9-12) $54 million $1.5 million Garden Grove Unified (K-12) $119.8 million $1.5 million Huntington Beach City (K-8) No estimate No estimate Huntington Beach Union $62 million $1.8 million High (9-12) Irvine Unified (K-12) $70 million $1.5 million Laguna Beach Unified (K-12) $8.6 million $100,000 La Habra (K-8) $14 million Break even Los Alamitos Unified (9-12) $24 million $800,000 Magnolia (K-6) $18 million $600,000 Newport-Mesa Unified (K-12) $59 million $4 million Ocean View (K-8) $30 million $1.3 million Orange Unified (K-12) $90 million $4.5 million Placentia Unified (K-12) $61 million $2 million Saddleback Valley Unified (K-12) $71 million $3.3 million Santa Ana Unified (K-12) $123 million $4 million Savanna (K-6) $6 million $70,000 Tustin Unified (K-12) $34 million No estimate Westminster (K-8) $25 million $500,000 Yorba Linda (K-8) $6.6 million $24,000

School District Action Anaheim City (Grades K-6) Divert lottery funds Anaheim Union High (7-12) May cut programs Brea-Olinda Unified (9-12) Divert lottery funds and some cuts yet to be decided Buena Park (K-8) Undecided; may spend reserves or cut some programs Capistrano Unified(K-12) Undecided; may spend reserves or cut some programs Centralia (K-6) Undecided; may cut programs Cypress (K-6) Spend reserves Fountain Valley (K-8) Lay off up to 27 employees and cut transportation, music and counseling programs Fullerton Elementary (K-8) Cut transportation, drop after-school sports, make some classes bigger Fullerton Joint Union High (9-12) Cut workshops, maintenance, other non-instructional programs Garden Grove Unified (K-12) Use lottery money and interest accrued from land sale Huntington Beach City (K-8) Undecided Huntington Beach Union Cut full-time athletic trainers, High (9-12) several other positions, impose fee for athletic trips Irvine Unified (K-12) Undecided Laguna Beach Unified (K-12) Undecided La Habra (K-8) Have been using reserve funds Los Alamitos Unified (9-12) Possible cuts in support staff; increase in transportation fees Magnolia (K-6) Undecided Newport-Mesa Unified (K-12) Undecided. Ocean View (K-8) Cut the vocal music program, after-school sports program, health aides, junior high asst. principals, staff development Orange Unified (K-12) Lay off up to 50 teachers and administrators; trim music and reading programs Placentia Unified (K-12) Reduced staff development and travel; freeze hiring for any job that is vacated Saddleback Valley Unified (K-12) Lay off up to 50 teachers and administrators, trim music and supplemental reading programs Santa Ana Unified (K-12) Cut programs for reading and the talented; cut maintenance and food service; use lottery funds for basic expenses Savanna (K-6) Undecided Tustin Unified (K-12) Undecided Westminster (K-8) Possible layoffs Yorba Linda (K-8) May divert lottery funds

*Shortfall means fixed expenses will exceed income.

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