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Local Financing Is Top Issue on Eve of Elections : Politics: Throughout the county, most ballot questions Tuesday will center on how to get more money, how to stretch funding further and how to keep services intact.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In Hawthorne, they will decide who has the best plan to keep the city afloat. In Beverly Hills, the issue will be the best way of allocating $77 million in school bonds. And in Pomona, for the second time in a year, the question is: Should the city allow card clubs?

When Los Angeles County voters go to the polls Tuesday, it will not be all about money. Issues such as slow-growth measures, a ban on oil drilling and new Civil Service restrictions will be among the issues decided by voters in more than a dozen cities.

Still, with California’s economy still sputtering, elections in many cities and school districts will focus on financing--how to get more revenues, how to stretch money further and how to keep services intact.

In all, contests will be held in 14 cities, 56 school districts, seven community college districts, seven county water districts, two irrigation districts, one library district and two special districts, according to the office of the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.

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Because this is an odd-numbered year, with neither a presidential nor gubernatorial election, a relatively low turnout is expected. For example, in 1993, only 31.68% of county voters went to the polls. And that was in an election year when there were a number of special statewide measures on property taxes, investment acts and housing projects, said Grace Romero, a spokeswoman for the registrar-recorder’s office. This year, there are no statewide measures on the ballot.

The registrar-recorder’s office no longer makes predictions on voter turnout, Romero said, so how many of the county’s 1,424,382 voters will go to the polls Tuesday remains a question.

The following is a summary of the races that should be the most contested in the county. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

SOUTH BAY

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In Hawthorne, all seven candidates running for two council seats agree the top priority is rescuing the city’s budget. The council recently voted to disband its Fire Department, chopping at least $1 million by turning that emergency service over to the county. The council is also negotiating the possibility of leasing out its water utility.

Council members Betty Ainsworth and Martha Bails are seeking reelection against five challengers: James Mitsch, Charles Bookhammer, Maud Hocker, Roger Young and Pablo Cantano.

In Hermosa Beach, voters will decide on four ballot measures including a proposed ban on oil drilling and removing department heads from Civil Service protections. In addition, there are two council seats at stake. Incumbents Robert Benz and Sam Edgerton are running against six other candidates: Jim Dewey, Sean Kelly, Kenneth Murphy, Dennis O’Dell and Jack Woods are on the ballot, while Roger Creighton is running as a write-in candidate.

Voters in the Manhattan Beach Unified School District will be asked to decide on a proposed $47-million property assessment. The money would be used to repair and renovate six schools, all between 33 and 50 years old, reopen two vacant elementary schools, build a middle school and convert the existing middle school into an elementary school.

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SOUTHEAST

In Lynwood, incumbent Councilman Louis J. Heine and Mayor Louis Byrd are facing four challengers in their bids for reelection.

Debate has centered on controversial water rate increases approved by the council earlier this year and supported by the two incumbents. The challengers have charged that the increases, which will hit residents over the next several years, are too high and unnecessary. Byrd has defended the increases, citing rising water rates from the city’s supplier.

WESTSIDE

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Four Beverly Hills residents are competing in a race for three seats on the Beverly Hills school board. In forums and debates, candidates have focused on the importance of overseeing a $77-million construction project, which calls for renovating the six district schools.

Incumbents Richard A. Stone and Jo Ann Koplin are seeking reelection to the five-member board, challenged by Dr. Trisha Roth and Virginia Maas. School board member Phil Harris is stepping down.

In Culver City, four candidates are seeking two seats, one of them open, on the Culver City school board. The candidates are incumbent Michael Eskridge, and challengers Steve Bubar, Tom Horn and Charles Locko.

SAN GABRIEL VALLEY

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After two years of debate, voters in Covina will finally decide whether to keep or dump the city’s controversial utility tax. The vote comes after one entire City Council was recalled in 1993 for approving the tax and its successors were targeted for removal after establishing a higher tax. Tuesday’s vote is technically a referendum, but every council member has agreed to abide by the outcome.

And in Pomona, voters will go to the polls for the second time in a year to decide whether they want a card club in their city. A similar measure to allow two card clubs was defeated in April after an acrimonious battle between supporters and opponents of the club.

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Contributing to this story were Jim Benning, Stephen Gregory, Mary Moore, Margaret Ramirez, Susan Steinberg and Richard Winton.

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