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School District Faces Another $88 Million in Budget Cutbacks

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Already reeling from $220 million in budget cuts last fall, the Los Angeles Unified School District must slash another $88 million by June in order to balance its $3.9-billion annual spending plan, the district’s top financial officer said Monday.

State cutbacks announced last week by Gov. Pete Wilson account for more than half the amount that must be pared, said Robert Booker, the district’s chief business and financial officer. He added that specific recommendations for budget cuts would be submitted in the coming weeks.

“I don’t know how we can humanly do it,” said school board member Leticia Quezada. “The whole world is going to come down here and say, ‘Don’t cut this program.’ It’s the ultimate bad news.”

The biggest single blow is $40 million that the district will lose because it gambled on receiving a 4.7% employee cost-of-living increase from the state, while only a 3% hike was approved.

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The district also expects to have to pay $8.4 million to Los Angeles County under a new state law that allows counties to bill school districts for the administrative task of collecting property taxes.

Income from the California Lottery is also down $17.3 million from the amount projected, Booker said.

In addition, the state says it will not reimburse the district for $3.4 million in driver education and training programs for this year.

The projections do not appear brighter for next year. Booker said the district faces $120 million in budget cuts for the 1991-92 school year.

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Booker said the shortfalls come at a time when district expenditures have soared, in part because there are more employees on the payroll than the 1990-91 budget projected.

Last fall, budget cuts forced the district to order 269 layoffs and eliminate by attrition another 731 administrative, maintenance and non-teaching staff positions. District officials said more layoffs may be imminent.

In other business, the board gave preliminary approval to a year-round schedule that would set a common calendar for the district. The proposal now goes before United Teachers-Los Angeles, the teachers union.

Under the schedule, most students would attend class for 180 days a year, with two 90-day semesters and 30-day breaks in between, plus two weeks off for Christmas and four days off in mid-April.

About 40 schools on so-called multitrack schedules would have their students attend class for 163 days, with an additional 40 minutes of instruction each day.

Multitrack schedules break the affected schools into several different student groups that attend classes on staggered schedules with one group on vacation at all times. This allows schools to squeeze in up to one third more students.

Several board members voiced concern Monday that many questions about year-round schools, such as scheduling winter sports, remain unanswered just months before the new schedule takes effect in June.

“I’m frustrated that we voted in February of last year (to switch to year-round schools) and there are still all these loose ends floating around,” said board member Mark Slavkin, who represents the Westside.

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