Schools Face Steep Cutbacks in El Segundo

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Already facing a deficit and the possibility of state funding cuts for next year, the El Segundo Unified School District board has earmarked $1 million in tentative spending cuts if the financial situation does not improve.

The across-the-board reductions, approved at a special meeting last week, include reducing library book purchases, ending district-paid field trips and eliminating 16 teaching positions and two counseling positions. Coaching stipends for extracurricular sports also would be reduced.

Supt. Bill Manahan, who recommended the cuts, said the district would be left with only "the basic programs required by law" if all cuts have to be made. He said this would be a "calamity" for El Segundo, eliminating many electives and severely curtailing competitive sports.

The superintendent said the cuts have been structured so that the least-crippling would be made first. However, nearly half of the reductions--$492,355--would come through eliminating the teaching and counseling jobs, which are last on the list.

"We want to make as many cuts as possible away from the classroom," Manahan said.

Because of the proposed reductions, the district is sending layoff notices to 16 teachers and two counselors. By law, the district must notify them by March 15 if there is a possibility that their jobs will be eliminated.

Manahan said the biggest fiscal questions the district faces are possible reductions in state funding and the outcome of salary negotiations with El Segundo school employees.

The district has reached an impasse with the El Segundo Educators Assn., which represents certificated employees. It is negotiating with the California School Employees Assn., which represents non-teaching personnel.

Gov. Pete Wilson has proposed no cost-of-living increase for school districts, as well as a one-year suspension of Proposition 98, a 1988 ballot measure that gives California public schools a guaranteed income.

According to Manahan, the loss of Proposition 98 money would cost the district about $280,000. A settlement with employees could cost between $250,000 and $300,000. In addition, the district is projecting a deficit of about $270,000 for next year.

Manahan said the board identified $1 million in cuts "in order to have the flexibility and many options" when the financial picture becomes clearer later in the year.

He said he hopes the more Draconian measures will be unnecessary. "My hope is that we will get more than zero (from the state), and that lottery funds will be increased," he said.

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