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Orange County Projects Survive; UCI a Winner

Times Staff Writer

Orange County programs in the new state budget escaped nearly unscathed Tuesday as Gov. George Deukmejian vetoed more than $600 million in individual items before signing the spending plan sent him last week by the Legislature.

The governor’s action means that UC Irvine will get more than $50 million for four construction projects at its main campus and its medical center in Orange. Cal State Fullerton, local community colleges and the Chino Hills State Park will also get money for new projects.

Orange County government stands to gain from Deukmejian’s agreement to provide $88 million in new money for financially strapped counties statewide, but just how much remains open to negotiations between the Administration and the Legislature.

Despite heated rhetoric in the capital about the negative effect of the 1987-88 budget on schools, officials in Orange County’s two biggest school districts said Tuesday that they had braced themselves for the governor’s actions and were prepared to deal with them.

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UC Irvine was clearly the big winner in the new budget, so a top official there was jubilant Tuesday over the news.

“We are absolutely delighted by the budget,” said William Lillyman, UCI executive vice chancellor. “We think the governor has treated both the campus and the University of California very well.”

Lillyman said the money for building a new biology building and renovating a science building would allow the university to accommodate more students and provide better instruction.

Coupled with a systemwide 5.7% faculty salary increase in January, 1988, the improvements--including building a new cancer treatment center and plans for a new psychiatric inpatient facility at UCI medical center--should help the campus recruit top-quality professors, Lillyman said.

“Excellent faculty are always in high demand,” he said. “Keeping faculty salaries competitive has always been our No. 1 priority. This builds in a base for the following year and keeps us competitive.”

For Cal State Fullerton, Orange County’s only campus in the CSU system, the budget includes funds for the first step toward building a $28.2-million addition and renovation of the school’s science building, McCarthy Hall. The budget provides for a 6.9% raise in January for CSU faculty members.

The county’s community colleges came through the governor’s vetoes with several major construction projects intact, including $3.1 million to expand the Orange campus of the Rancho Santiago Community College District and $350,000 to add room at the same campus for instruction of students with learning disabilities.

Deukmejian also left in the budget $464,000 for an addition to the biology building at Orange Coast College.

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Deukmejian eliminated two programs that provide special aid to schools in urban areas.

The county’s two largest districts had different reactions to that move. Pat Browning, associate superintendent for business services at Santa Ana Unified, said the governor’s vetoes would cost the district more than $900,000 in the coming year.

Because the money Deukmejian cut was used by Santa Ana for bilingual education programs required by the federal government, Browning said, other funds would have to be redirected to those programs.

“It’s going to impact the regular instructional program,” Browning said. “We’re going to have to rob Peter to pay Paul.”

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Browning said the 37,000-student district--the county’s largest--absorbed the cuts by reducing spending for textbooks, supplies and equipment.

At the Garden Grove Unified School District, meanwhile, Supt. Ed Dundon accepted Deukmejian’s actions with little more than a shrug. Dundon said his district was one of those that did not qualify for the special aid because the funding was based on formulas developed more than a decade ago.

Deukmejian has said that cases like Garden Grove throughout the state--where heavily urbanized districts were not being funded because the formulas were out of date--were what prompted him to eliminate the programs.

Overall, Dundon said, the state budget provides about what the district expected to receive: enough money to continue current programs but not add any new ones.

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“If there had been any more money provided, it would have gone onto the table for salaries,” Dundon added.

Deukmejian also stepped into a dispute over funding formulas when he left $88 million in the budget for financially strapped counties but deleted the Legislature’s language for distributing that money.

Deukmejian and his top advisers said the Administration would negotiate with the Legislature on a new way of doling out the funds that would better reflect the needs of rapidly growing areas such as Orange County.

Dennis Carpenter, Orange County’s lobbyist in Sacramento, said the county would likely be “a major beneficiary” of the governor’s decision to seek a new formula. Carpenter and the county’s legislative delegation have long argued that state funds for county health and social service programs were distributed in a way that unfairly benefited Los Angeles and San Francisco counties at the expense of such rapidly growing areas as Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties.

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