Beverly Hills Panel Rejects Plan to Ease Funding for Schools

Times Staff Writer

A 15-member citizen advisory committee has voted against a proposal to convert Beverly Hills to a charter city to make it easier to allocate funds directly to the school district.

The committee, which was appointed by the City Council in March to investigate putting an initiative seeking a limited charter on the November ballot, presented the results of its finding to the council Tuesday night.

Instead of a charter initiative, the committee narrowly voted to ask the council to consider a different ballot initiative that would place a limit on the amount the city pays the district through its joint-powers leasing agreement.

Two council members voiced guarded support for letting voters decide if a cap should be established, while two other members were opposed. Mayor Benjamin H. Stansbury, who did not attend the meeting, has said he supports the committee recommendation.

Legal Restrictions

Because Beverly Hills is a general law city, it is restricted by the state from making direct contributions to the school district. Charter cities are not so restricted because their decisions are based on a voter-approved charter.

Richard Morganstern, vice chairman of the committee, said that placing a cap on city spending would reduce the level of "politicizing" that occurs during every City Council election on the issue of school funding.

Morganstern said that the proposal would "minimize the political pressure on the council" and "maintain the independence of the school district."

Stephen M. Kravit, a committee member who wrote a minority report, said that further study is needed to determine whether there are alternative sources of funding for the district.

The city contributes about 8% of its budget, or $4 million, to the school district through an agreement to lease the district's playgrounds, auditoriums, libraries and other facilities for public use.

Three Options

Morganstern said that the committee determined that little would be accomplished by moving to a charter city.

In its proposal to limit city contributions, the committee presented three options: limiting city contributions to $4 million, establishing a base $4-million contribution to be increased each year by the amount of inflation or limiting city contributions to 8% of the city budget.

Councilman Robert K. Tanenbaum argued that if the council limited the amount it spends on the schools, it would be "giving up its fiscal responsibility."

"We have to have the right to make the judgment calls that we think are right, proper and correct," he said. "No one has ever suggested that we would give the district a blank check."

Councilwoman Donna Ellman said she understood the rationale behind establishing a limit on city spending.

"If the school district is in negotiations with the teachers, problems will emerge if the teachers think they can look beyond the district to the city for additional salary increases," she said.

The Beverly Hills Unified School District today resumed contract talks with the Beverly Hills Education Assn., the union representing the district's 300 teachers. The teachers are seeking salary increases that the district claims it cannot afford.

Councilwoman Charlotte Spadaro said that "I have always been very much in favor of putting issues on the ballot, but I have mixed emotions about this one."

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