LONG BEACH — Because of a budget shortfall of $1.8 million, the school district will be unable to pay for portable classrooms needed to house more than 2,000 students next fall, Supt. E. Tom Giugni told city officials this week.
The superintendent asked the City Council and Redevelopment Agency for the money Tuesday, and for the second time in the past two months he was rejected by both agencies.
Mayor Ernie Kell told Giugni that he appeared to be "going for the easy decision" which the mayor said was an attempt "to get the money from the city." Kell suggested that school officials explore other alternatives.
Redevelopment Agency Chairman Robert Calhoun said that while he and many other city officials were sympathetic, there was nothing that they could immediately do to help the district out. He added that Tuesday's rejection "does not close the door" to future aid from the city.
Giugni appeared undaunted. After the meeting, the superintendent promised to return before both agencies and continue fund-raising efforts that City Manager John E. Dever referred to as "tin-cupping for money."
"This is a community problem," Giugni said in an interview, adding that he was confident that city officials would eventually give the district money.
"They haven't told us to pack up our bags and go home," Giugni said.
Last month, the City Council and Redevelopment Agency rejected the superintendent's request for $72 million to help build three new elementary schools. Later that month, the school district's board of trustees voted to impose fees on developers that its staff said would raise about $3.5 million a year.
Giugni addressed the City Council and Redevelopment Agency Tuesday during a public hearing on a proposed amendment to a plan for downtown redevelopment. The proposed amendment calls for building more apartments and condominiums, but school officials have complained that increased residential development would have a significant effect on already overcrowded city schools.
1,200 Students a Year
The district, which has 66,000 students and $299-million budget, is growing by at least 1,200 students a year, school officials have said. By September, the district will need 73 portable classrooms for those students, the superintendent said Tuesday. That expenditure is expected to cost about $1.8 million, money Giugni said the school district does not have.
The alternative to portable classrooms is year-round sessions for some elementary-school students, which will be discussed by school board members in January, Giugni said in an interview. He added that school officials are still studying how many students will be affected by the possible year-round sessions.
At Tuesday's meeting, several council members expressed sympathy for the district's overcrowding but suggested that the superintendent had chosen the wrong forum in which to discuss it--a hearing on redevelopment.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's almost like holding it (redevelopment) hostage," Councilman Ray Grabinski said.
Councilman Clarence Smith, however, said he was concerned that school and city officials are not acting "in tandem" to address a community problem.