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HUNTINGTON BEACH : ‘Very Tentative’ School Budget OKd

Faced with enrollment figures that continue to slide, the Huntington Beach Union High School District has adopted a tentative budget for 1990-91 that includes a $1.4-million deficit.

However, the district can easily cover the shortfall in the $78.2-million spending plan by tapping into the $3.2-million balance from last year, officials said.

In addition, the district has $5 million stashed away in a special reserve fund set up in anticipation of such deficits.

In 1988, board members, assuming the decade-long enrollment decline would continue, began funneling lottery revenue into an account created to bail the district out of future budget crunches, said David Hagen, assistant superintendent for business operations.

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“But this tentative budget is very tentative,” Hagen said, pointing to the uncertain level of state spending this year. “We still don’t close out our books on this year for 30 days. Plus, we have no idea how much money we’ll be getting from the state. So things can drastically change within the next month.”

The budget is based on a 3% cost-of-living adjustment. If the state’s contribution is lower than that, the district would dip further into its reserve accounts, Hagen said.

Enrollment, which has plummeted from a high of 21,200 in 1978-79 to 14,000 this past school year, is projected to level off by the mid-1990s.

Until then, the district will continue to draw on reserves, Hagen said. After the emergency fund is exhausted, board members will begin implementing $11.6 million in spending cuts.

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