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$2 Million in Reductions : Inglewood Schools Adopt Lean Budget

September 06, 1987|SEBASTIAN ROTELLA | Times Staff Writer

Inglewood school trustees have adopted a budget that will result in significant reductions in custodial and clerical help and require a concerted effort to cut student and teacher absenteeism.

And they are hoping for some luck in the form of new money from Sacramento.

At a short meeting last week that contrasted markedly with the marathon sessions of previous months, the board approved a 1987-88 budget totaling $85.2 million, with a general fund of $43 million.

Board member Caroline Coleman, who repeatedly called for cutbacks in administrative personnel during the budget review process, was the only trustee to vote against the budget.

Last week's cuts were the last of slightly more than $2 million in budget reductions forced by a $1.9 million raise to teachers and other employees, the loss of $700,000 in Urban Impact funds vetoed by Gov. Deukmejian and a jump in Blue Cross and other insurance costs.

"I think it's going to be a tough year in that we are going to have to be making do with less when expectations are more," Supt. Rex Fortune said. "There will clearly be some days when employees who had been available will not be available."

In July, initial budget cuts totaling about $1.2 million resulted in closing a school for kindergartners and first-graders and reducing counseling, security and clerical staff. The board also froze overtime--an area of widespread abuse and revenue loss, officials said--for security, maintenance and custodial personnel.

But board members rejected deeper cuts in supplies and security staff and told administrators to keep additional reductions as far from the classroom as possible. The response was a "revenue adjustment" package that combines optimism with a new program to cut student absenteeism, for a net projected intake of $733,418.

Assistant Supt. Jerry Norman said updated estimates this month show that state lottery and enrollment funds will bring about $533,000 more to the district than had been expected. And officials hope to reduce student absenteeism enough to draw an extra $200,000 in state allocations based on attendance.

The board cut an additional estimated $700,000 from custodial, clerical and substitute-teacher budgets, including a reduction of eight-hour custodial shifts to six hours. Officials admitted that will leave custodial force at Inglewood's two high schools at 40% strength. The final number of layoffs in all areas will not be determined until next week's meeting, Fortune said.

"We tried everything we could think of," Fortune said. "In the final analysis, the board's stringent requirements to stay away from the classroom caused us to make more liberal assumptions about the enrollment and attendance. We're going to have to work to keep student and teacher attendance high."

Fortune said the district's reserve fund is down to 2.08% of the budget. That figure has been deemed "conditionally acceptable" by the Los Angeles County Office of Education and should be sufficient barring a major emergency expense, Fortune said.

Inglewood Teachers Assn. President Ken Franklin said it will be hard to gauge the impact of cutbacks until school starts this week, but he foresaw dirty and unequipped school buildings and classrooms.

"It's going to trigger safety grievances," Franklin said. "I'm telling teachers not to move furniture if it's not in place; that's the district's responsibility."

Franklin said he hopes the new program to crack down on absences will be effective, but said it may be hard to attract students to dirty or unsafe schools. The lack of substitutes and clerical support will increase pressure on teachers, he said.

Board Vice President Ernest Shaw said district employees, students and parents will have to pitch in to overcome a shortage of resources and personnel. Saying he has seen school districts survive lean years in which predictions of hardship were proved untrue, Shaw said the district may receive more state funding as the year progresses.

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