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Alhambra School Board to Cut 77 Jobs : Education: Faced with a massive budget deficit, the school board will eliminate some non-teaching positions and reduce the working hours of others.

January 24, 1991|HOWARD BLUME | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ALHAMBRA — In a desperate attempt to stay afloat financially, the Board of Education for the Alhambra City and High School districts voted unanimously Tuesday night to lay off more than 70 non-teaching employees.

An additional 40 employees face shortened hours, and 13 health aides will also lose health benefits, said Darlene Perez, the union representative for classified workers. There are 864 classified, or non-teaching, employees in the district.

The cutbacks and layoffs of 77 will affect instructional aides, clerks, equipment drivers, groundskeepers, mechanics, custodians, health aides and switchboard operators. They come just one week after parents, students and teachers cheered board members for pledging to save elementary music and art programs, which had been among possible budget cuts.

This week's meeting brought no elation to the 325 spectators, mostly district employees, who crowded into the Garvey Elementary School auditorium.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday January 27, 1991 Home Edition San Gabriel Valley Part J Page 2 Column 2 Zones Desk 2 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
Alhambra Meeting--A story Thursday gave an incorrect location for a meeting of the Alhambra City and High School districts board last week at which the board voted to lay off more than 70 non-teaching employees. The meeting was at Garfield Elementary School.

For more than an hour, grim board members listened to employees beg them to find alternatives to layoffs in the districts, which serve more than 20,000 students.

"I am not just a name on a list," Evelyn Canzano, 57, said. "I am a loyal employee doing a job for 25 years."

Canzano's husband died in November, she said, and now she may lose her job. She enters data on pupils in specialized programs, such as those who are gifted or disabled, into computer files.

"My job, that was important for 25 years, is no longer important?" she asked of the board.

Health aides carried placards reading "Support Health." They argued that their jobs were more vital than ever because fewer parents can afford regular health care. "Are we going to put a hold on what hours a child can be sick?" asked Mary Young, a health aide for nine years.

Board members listened respectfully, but said little before approving the cuts. President Phyllis J. Rutherford noted that her own job is categorized similarly to those of endangered Alhambra employees. Rutherford works for the Los Angeles County Office of Education as a behavior-management specialist for disabled children.

Supt. Bruce H. Peppin said board members had no painless options. "We are running a severe deficit and do need to make reductions," he said. "There are no unimportant people or positions in our district."

The current cuts in the district's $100-million budget total about $900,000. The district still must trim an additional $1.6 million by year's end, Peppin said.

Alhambra's budget year started badly and has gotten worse. In June, the board sliced $1.8 million from the budget.

The district didn't plan, however, on money from the state lottery running about $1 million behind what was projected. Alhambra optimistically calculated lottery income at $177 per student when other nearby districts were planning on $160 per student or less. The current estimate is about $123 per student.

Like many other districts, Alhambra did not budget for county property taxes, which schools had been exempt from paying before the state budget problems worsened. Alhambra's bill is likely to be about $500,000 this year. In addition, state leaders have announced plans to reduce the size of the cost-of-living adjustments the districts had been receiving this year. Alhambra stands to lose an additional $1 million as a result.

Peppin said the district's past generosity has weakened its stability. Over the last four years, district salaries have increased by 15.64%, while state cost-of-living adjustments have risen by only 14.28%, he said. The district also gave employees bonuses of 2.9% and 3.36% of their salaries.

But teacher's union President Judy Bailey said the administration was wrongly blaming employees for budget woes. "We are part of a profession that deserves respect, and fair compensation is part of that respect," she said. "We refuse to be held responsible for the financial situation you have created."

Perez, who represents non-teaching employees, said she will continue to press the district to adopt cost-saving alternatives her membership has suggested. These range from saving postage by handing out report cards rather than mailing them, to reducing administrators' work year by a month and eliminating assistant principal jobs at grade schools.

Who will be laid off in the 77 job reductions may not be known for a week or two, Perez said. Many workers with seniority will be able to preserve their jobs at the expense of colleagues with less time served. A handful may be able to switch to vacant positions.

"It's scary, terrifying, not knowing day to day if you're going to have your job," said clerk-typist Luci Gonzales, mother of a 4-year-old. "I know that the kids come first, but we're the pencil pushers.

"You need us as much as you need the teachers."

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