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Budget Cutbacks Looming for Santa Monica Schools

June 11, 1987|JOHN L. MITCHELL | Times Staff Writer

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District will have just enough cash to pay its bills when its fiscal year ends this month--but just barely. Next year, however, the district must cut as much as $5 million to balance its projected $37.4-million budget.

The district's precarious financial position was outlined Monday night at a special meeting to discuss 1987-88 budget projections. Based on preliminary data, school board members were told that the district would end the current fiscal year in the red and faces a difficult financial future.

"The situation looks very, very bad," said school board President Mary Kay Kamath. "From the figures we had, it looks like we have a shortfall in the neighborhood of $5 million (for the next fiscal year). There is no way we can balance the budget without a two- or three-year plan of how to get out of this mess."

More Data Needed

She said that the board has some ideas on where to cut, but it must first have more complete information from district staff on the size of the current and projected deficit.

The district's gloomy financial picture was noted in a state auditor's report in March detailing the plights of eight financially beleaguered school districts.

"It was the first time we have ever been mentioned in a state auditor general's report as district in danger," Kamath said.

Not long after the report was released, district officials said that the district might need special state assistance to pay for salaries and other expenses through June because of an $800,000 deficit in its $38-million budget, caused by budget miscalculations and other unforeseen financial setbacks.

The district managed to come up with enough money to pay operating expenses for the fiscal year, but not enough to avoid a deficit--the amount of which has yet to be determined. The district managed to reduce the size of the deficit through a freeze on hiring and purchasing, begun in March.

Some Money Saved

"We have shut down spending and that saved us some money," said Michael McCarty, the district's business manager.

The district, which has 9,300 students, is required by law to approve a balanced budget. The board is expected to approve trims in next year's budget at another special meeting scheduled for June 24. McCarty said the board probably will reduce the size of the district's reserves, capital and maintenance expenditures.

But before the board makes a decision, member Della Barrett said, it must receive a more complete financial picture from the district.

She said that the district staff was unable to provide complete budget projections at Monday's meeting because of confusion generated by the district moving its headquarters and because of inadequate data provided by the county.

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