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Funds Found for School Crossing Guards : Budget: County windfall provides $1.8 million, but the board of supervisors warns that 34 districts will have to pay half the cost next year and all of the cost after that.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Buoyed by an unexpected windfall of $125 million, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday restored $1.8 million for crossing guards at 134 schools across Los Angeles County.

The restoration of the county program, deleted in a budget-cutting move in late July, came as a relief to school administrators and parents from Palmdale to Hawthorne. But it is only a temporary reprieve. The board warned the 34 affected districts that they will have to pay half the cost of crossing guards in unincorporated portions of the county next year and the full cost in two years.

School administrators said they intend to lobby against the plan.

“Safety outside the school grounds is the responsibility of the county and the cities, not the schools,” said Supt. Forrest MacElroy of the Palmdale School District. “The $30,000 we’d have to spend on crossing guards would buy one classroom teacher, and that’s what we should be doing with the money.”

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Most of the districts had reluctantly picked up the tab for the guards after the county dropped them from the payroll, but one district in the San Gabriel Valley was forced to leave 17 intersections unsupervised for six days.

“Thank God there were no accidents,” said Andy Cazares, superintendent of the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District, which had gone without guards since the school year began.

Supervisors Gloria Molina, Deane Dana and Yvonne Brathwaite Burke voted to fully fund the program this year after learning that the county had $125 million more than had been estimated. Supervisor Mike Antonovich was out of town, but had proposed earlier that the county restore at least a portion of the funds.

At that time, the board declined, citing its deep fiscal woes. But the unexpected windfall, achieved mainly because of effective penny-pinching by managers, prompted the supervisors to tap into other funds they would have otherwise left untouched, Burke said.

The money for the crossing guards is actually coming from funds the county will save by refinancing 1986 pension obligation bonds at a lower interest rate, Treasurer Sandra Davis said.

“Crossing guards are critical,” Molina said. “My child goes to school and has a crossing guard, and so should all the children.”


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