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Council Rejects Latest Call for $72 Million to Build Schools

November 13, 1986|RALPH CIPRIANO | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — Top school district administrators lobbied two city agencies for money this week, but they left empty-handed.

"We still have some questions about your overall financial need," Mayor Ernie Kell told Supt. E. Tom Giugni after the superintendent sought $72 million to help build three new schools.

Noel Gould, a member of the Redevelopment Agency, was more blunt.

As a graduate of district schools, Gould said he was "embarrassed" by a "lack of leadership" by school board members. He accused board members of directing school officials to use legal threats against the city in an attempt to solve the district's financial problems.

School officials have repeatedly come before city officials with "an invoice for $72 million in one hand and a lawyer in another," Gould charged. He urged district officials to go back to board members and ask them to try a more "creative" approach to the district's financial problems.

School board members apparently took the hint.

Developer Fee Sought

At a Tuesday night meeting, they proposed imposing a fee on developers to help finance construction of new schools. The proposal will be the subject of a Nov. 24 school board hearing.

None of the five school board members could be reached for comment Wednesday but Mary Anne Mays, the school district's deputy director of facilities funding, said money generated by the developer fees could raise $10.5 million in three years. That money, though, would not be enough to build three new elementary schools the district needs by 1990, Mays said. She said the district estimates those schools will cost $54 million.

As a result, district officials will continue to pursue money from the city because without city funding, "what we will be looking at is very stark, bare-bones (new) schools with no landscaping, no auditoriums, covered walkways or internal hallways," Mays said.

The confrontation between city and school officials Tuesday was the latest round in a two-year battle over how much City Hall should contribute for new schools. It took place at a combined meeting of the City Council and Redevelopment Agency, when the two agencies were taking public testimony about a proposed amendment to a plan for downtown redevelopment.

The amendment calls for building more apartments and condominiums in the 421-acre Downtown Redevelopment Area. The amendment has drawn objections from school administrators, who say a city study was "grossly deficient" in assessing the potential effect of increased downtown residential growth on city schools.

The dispute should be settled at a meeting between school and city officials, City Council members said Tuesday. The council voted unanimously to continue the public hearing on the amendment Dec. 16.

City officials have said that most of the new 1,800 condominiums and apartments that would be built in the Downtown Redevelopment Area would be for singles or young couples without children. City officials have estimated that the new homes would add only 13 students to the school district's population, an estimate school officials have attacked as irresponsible.

Year-Round School

The Long Beach Unified School District, which has 66,000 students, is expanding rapidly, having added 5,000 students in the past three years, Giugni said. Because of growing enrollment, the district is facing the possibility of double sessions and year-around school next year, Giugni told city officials.

Councilmen Wallace Edgerton and Ray Grabinski attempted to mediate the dispute with school officials.

"We've just got to get to a position that's not adversarial," Edgerton said after the school district's attorney, Murray Kane, charged that city officials had improperly left school officials out of their deliberations over the proposed amendment to the redevelopment plan. A lawyer for the city's Redevelopment Agency disputed Kane's claim.

Grabinski said he did not want to see tensions escalate between city and school officials. "I don't want to see the future of our children placed in the hands of some judge," the councilman said.

School officials filed a lawsuit last year against the city to try to force city officials to impose development fees that would be turned over to the school district. The suit was later withdrawn after school officials said they wanted to improve their relationship with city officials.

Developers' fees were authorized by new state legislation that allows school districts themselves to impose the fees to relieve overcrowding. The fees amount to $1.50 per square foot for new residences and 25 cents a square foot for commercial buildings. The fees would go into effect as an emergency ordinance Jan. 1 if approved by board members this month, Mays said.

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