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Orange County Focus

COSTA MESA : School Board Told Budget Freeze Likely

February 15, 1991|ZION BANKS

Citing a $1.6-million loss of lottery funds and unexpected district expenses, Newport-Mesa Unified School District Supt. John W. Nicoll warned the school board this week that a freeze on programs may be necessary to avoid a 1991-92 budget deficit that could run as high as $2 million.

The programs most likely to be affected are a $520,000 expansion of a computer technology program and a

$100,000 library automation project, Nicoll told the board. He said he has no plans to recommend teacher layoffs.

Although the district has joined others in a court battle to fight the biggest unexpected expense--an $800,000 payment to the county for property tax collection--Nicoll said that money will still be set aside "just in case."

He said the district also was not counting on soaring utility costs, which are expected to increase as much as 300%. "That puts you in a deficit before you can clear your throat," he said.

In addition, paying $3.5 million for salary and merit increases and $640,000 for new hires could leave the district short, Nicoll said.

"We're looking at what could come to be a $2-million shortfall for the 1991-92 budget," he told the board. "The budget will be, in many instances, frozen in place instead of expanding on what we had prepared for."

Next year would have been the last in a $2.5-million, three-year expansion of the computer technology program that would have added teachers, hardware and continued a teacher training program.

The board also was considering computerizing the district's library and linking it to the city's, said Nicoll, who also sits on the Newport Beach Public Library board. In previous years, the district has bought hardware, set up laboratories and replaced its main computer.

The board will consider a tentative budget in late April or early May and adopt it by June.

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