Board Makes Preliminary School Cuts of $3 Million : Education: Budget reductions are based on Newport-Mesa getting back 93% of its investments in failed county pool.


With a minimum of $3.1 million in budget cuts on the table in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, the school board Tuesday slashed a host of costs, including all elementary school psychologists and bus service for ninth- to 12th-graders.

Whether the cuts really materialize depends on how much of its money the school district gets out of the now-failed Orange County bond pool. But Tuesday night's vote prioritized what will go first from the $86.8 million budget.

Even if the district gets 93% of its $80-million investment in the pool--a best-case scenario--some cuts must occur, trustees said. More cuts will be necessary if the district recoups less than 93%.

Other cuts include reducing the staff of district psychologists from 15 to 11, entirely eliminating elementary school counseling; reducing support staff, such as librarians, by seven positions (or 2%) districtwide; eliminating the assistant principal's job at Monte Vista High School, the district's continuation school; and reducing staff development programs by about half.

Also, district-funded car phones for seven of eight officials who have them also were eliminated.

"This is a symbolic move," Board Member Edward H. Decker said of the phones. "Five thousand dollars isn't a lot of money, but as several people pointed out . . . there are other ways of contacting people in an emergency, such as a beeper."

Board President Judy Franco said the cuts do "not directly affect the classroom. It does affect other services that have been provided by the district." The board spared school sports, school nurses and the Environmental Nature Center.

They also expressed a preference, if necessary, to sell surplus property, such as the old Bear Street School site, which would bring up to $4.5 million.

Other vacant district properties are under review by a citizens panel. They include the Costa Mesa High School farm site, for which developer Tom Williams has offered $10 million. But district officials are negotiating with the city of Costa Mesa and the Orange County Fair Board on a plan that would convert the farm site to a public athletic complex with a football field, rubberized track, two soccer fields and three lighted basketball courts.

A districtwide central library was spared in this first round of cuts, as was mileage reimbursements for district employees.

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