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2 Districts Dip Into Reserves for Budgets

September 04, 1986|PETER PAE | Times Staff Writer

The Santa Monica-Malibu and Beverly Hills school boards approved their 1986-87 district budgets Tuesday night, dipping heavily into their reserves and leaving a fiscally uncertain future for the schools.

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District was able to balance its $31.5-million budget by trimming nearly $1.6 million and by using its last $300,000 in surplus funds.

"We have no money left over," said Janice Walker, Santa Monica-Malibu district spokeswoman. "We really don't know yet what our situation will be next year."

In Beverly Hills, school district officials used almost all of their reserves to make up more than $2 million in deficits in their $26-million budget. For the first time, the estimated deficit is greater than the $1.1-million surplus the district expects at the end of the year.

'Substantial Cuts'

The district must either increase revenues or decrease expenditures to balance the 1987-88 budget, said John Scoggin, the district's financial director. "We can't pull money out of the reserves again.

"Failing any sort of any additional revenue, the school board will be forced to make substantial cuts."

Both school districts were able to get by this year without any substantial cuts in programs or manpower, but the Santa Monica-Malibu school board was close to firing 44 teachers in March to reduce the deficit.

Although the teachers were laid off for 2 1/2 months, most of them were rehired when more than 30 teachers retired this year, Walker said.

Beverly Hills school officials were also expecting to lay off teachers until the city provided the district with $2.2 million in funding.

Much of the funding problem, according to both districts, has been caused by declining student enrollment.

Student enrollment at Santa Monica-Malibu schools has declined by 3% to 5% each year since 1975. Enrollment dropped from 13,800 in 1975-76 to 9,400 students this year, which accounts for a loss of $11.5 million in funding, said Walker.

The Beverly Hills school district estimates that enrollment will decline by 80 students this year. But Scoggin said a new transfer law, passed in January, could alleviate Beverly Hills' declining enrollment and increase next year's revenue. The law would allow children of people who work in Beverly Hills to attend schools there.

In addition to losing enrollment, each district has lost other sources of revenues.

Scoggin said Beverly Hills lost revenue because of a drop in the price and production of oil from wells on the high school campus. Scoggin estimated that the school will receive $360,000 this year, down from a $1.2 million in annual oil income before 1983.

Santa Monica-Malibu schools also lost additional funding when the state categorized it as a "high-wealth district." Allocation of state funds for each school district is based on property taxes. Walker could not estimate how much money was lost because of the new status.

To make up for the losses both districts have increased their efforts to raise money.

The Beverly Hills school board hired a public relations agency in July to convince the public of the severity of school budget difficulties and to raise money.

The Santa Monica-Malibu school board plans to sell 90 acres of coastal property in Malibu, but the revenue from the sale will not be available until the 1990s, Walker said.

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