The Beverly Hills City Council has tentatively agreed to pay $4.4 million to the city's school district next year, doubling the amount of money the city currently provides through a joint-powers agreement with the district.
City Councilwoman Donna Ellman proposed the payment as a solution to the district's projected 1987-88 budget deficit. The $4.4 million represents a two-year advance payment to the district for the 1987-88 and 1988-89 school years.
Ellman said the proposal will enable the district to balance its budget and give the city time to devise a legal means of increasing its annual payment to the schools to $4 million a year as of 1988-89.
Under its current agreement, the city pays the district $2.2 million annually to lease schoolyards, auditoriums and libraries for public use. The lease agreement allows the city to avoid state laws prohibiting direct contributions to the schools.
The council tentatively approved the prepayment solution at an informal study session Tuesday afternoon. The decision followed a request by school board President Mark Egerman last week that the city provide a stronger financial commitment for the schools.
Condition for Support
Egerman said he will support the city's proposal if it is followed by a long-term commitment to fund the schools. "If they provide us with two years funding and then turn around and say now let's talk about the future, I would not support it," he said.
The board president said if the city increases the level of funding to the schools, the district will reduce the tax "dollar for dollar" that would be levied on property owners should the parcel tax initiative win approval of the voters March 3.
The parcel tax, which must be approved by a two-thirds vote, would raise $2.5 million a year for five years by levying a flat $270 annual tax on each parcel of property in the city.
The tax, however, will only cover a portion of the $5.7-million shortfall the district needs to supplement its state funding and balance a $27-million 1987-88 budget. If the tax is not approved, the district plans to lay off 50 teachers in September.
City Councilman Robert K. Tanenbaum, an early opponent of the parcel tax initiative, said he will compromise and support the measure after the council indicated that it would significantly increase the amount of city funds to be allocated to the district.
Mayor Charlotte Spadaro, who also has been reluctant to support the tax, said she wanted more community reaction before endorsing the initiative.
After making the proposal, Ellman warned the district that city funds are limited. "There are no free lunches," she said. "If the city gives more and more money every year to the schools, either the city has to raise more money or cut out services."
Councilman Maxwell Salter praised his colleagues for their decision to increase funds for the schools. "No other city gives to the schools like Beverly Hills," he said. "Santa Monica gives thousands of dollars to its district while we give millions."
Still, he said the district should not take the city's generosity for granted. The district should not take the additional money and make "unrealistic pay increases simply because the city has put extra money in the pot," he added.
Last week, city officials began exploring the possibility of holding a charter election that would make it easier for the city to fund the schools directly without the use of a joint-powers agreement.
City officials said it could take a year before such a measure is brought before the voters.