Beverly Hills Schools Face Deficit

Times Staff Writer

The Beverly Hills Unified School District will be forced to raise additional revenues or face more financial cuts to cover an estimated $3-million to $5-million deficit over the next three years, according to a recently released report by the superintendent's office.

Beverly Hills Supt. Robert L. French said the report summarizing the district's financial plight was prepared to help the Board of Education set priorities and determine what action to take.

The most pressing decision involves how the district will cover an estimated shortfall of between $800,000 and $1.2 million in next year's $26-million budget.

"My first reaction is to remain cool and get the facts so that we can define what our priorities are and where we want to make cuts," said Fred Stern, school board president. "We are looking for a combination of new revenues and cuts. . . . The frills will have to go."

Over the next few weeks, he said, the board will make a number of decisions including how many layoff notices to send out. The district is required by law to notify teachers by March 15 if they are going to be laid off in September.

School officials said the board will also evaluate maintenance, school improvement projects, special education programs and other areas for potential cuts.

Stern said the board may ask voters to approve a special tax on each parcel of land in the city. A similar parcel tax initiative fell just short of receiving the two-third vote necessary for passage last year.

If the school board decides a special tax is needed, officials plan to begin an information and education campaign in November to gain voter support for the tax. The vote would be held in March, 1989.

In the meantime, the district plans to search for alternatives to cuts, Stern said.

Last year, the district managed to avoid drastic cuts with the help of a $4.1-million lease agreement with the city. The Beverly Hills Education Foundation also contributed $810,000 to the district.

However, despite the additional revenues last year, the district was still forced to reduce its budget by $2 million.

On the bright side, the district is expected to begin reversing a long pattern of declining enrollment in about two years, according to district projections.

School officials said one of the reasons the district has been in such poor financial health can be attributed to the loss of nearly 1,000 students, from 5,700 to 4,850, since 1980. Enrollment is expected to increase to 7,000 by 1999.

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