Faced with sharply rising teacher and administrator salaries, the Los Angeles Unified School District will be forced to make deep budget cuts--perhaps as much as $180 million--in the 1990-91 school year, district officials warned Monday.
District chief financial officer Robert Booker told the Board of Education that the cuts will be needed because these expenditures have risen faster than the state's allowance for inflation increases. Another reason for the steep cuts is that the board used funds to balance the 1989-90 budget that will not be available next year.
"The district has serious problems," Booker said, which means the board will face "difficult choices" when it begins preparing next year's spending plan.
Booker said the estimate of cuts next year could be as low as $115 million or as high as $180 million, depending on the amount of money received from the state lottery and from Proposition 98, the voter-approved initiative that guarantees schools a stable spending base.
The grim budget prediction was sparked by a discussion of a motion by board member Roberta Weintraub calling for an immediate freeze on spending in six areas.
Weintraub's proposal, which is scheduled for a vote Monday, asks the board to reject spending on new programs, such as on an ambitious district plan to end low achievement. It also would freeze all travel paid out of the general fund "except for travel related to legislative, legal and financial matters."
In addition, job vacancies in central and regional offices would be left unfilled unless approved by a special freeze committee formed last year by Supt. Leonard Britton. All job reclassifications requiring salary raises would also be frozen. Moreover, renewal of district membership in outside organizations would be prohibited.
Booker estimated the freezes would save $1 million this year.
Weintraub said she hoped that the motion would have a "chilling effect" on board members and encourage extreme caution on spending the district's money. "We have reached the bottom of the barrel as far as money is concerned, or darned close," she said.
The board cut about $40 million to balance this year's nearly $4-billion budget. Those cuts were necessary, district officials said, because of the salary increases the board gave teachers--who staged a nine-day strike in May--and administrators. Teachers and school-based administrators received a three-year, 24% raise, while Britton and other senior managers were given a 16% increase over two years.
Several board members were critical of the motion, calling it inadequate and premature.
"It's a good beginning but it's just not of the magnitude needed," board member Rita Walters said.