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School Districts Sharpen Budget Knives : Education: Serious funding shortages are expected as a consequence of state's financial woes. Some courses will be eliminated throughout the area.

April 21, 1991|DENISE HAMILTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

School districts throughout the San Gabriel Valley are bracing for budget cuts that could range from axing teachers to eliminating arts and language programs as administrators draw up final budgets for the 1991-92 academic year.

Many educators say shortfalls in lottery money and state reduction of their annual cost-of-living increase have combined to create the grimmest fiscal picture in years.

"It's very severe; we're trying to cut classes that have the least importance to students, but it's awfully hard because everything we offer has importance to students," said Bruce H. Peppin, superintendent of the 19,378-student Alhambra Unified School District.

Alhambra, which has an annual budget of about $78 million, already has cut $1.8 million and must trim $1.2 million more by June 30, the date by which all California school districts must submit their 1991-92 budgets to the state Education Department.

The district may eliminate electives such as Latin, German, music, cooking, sewing and some art and vocational education classes, as well as the entire speech department; that could lead to lowering the number of credits needed for graduation.

Residents and teachers have protested the cuts. "Our concerns are many," said Nina Sharky, president of the Alhambra Democratic Club and organizer of a protest rally. "Students who are college-bound would have fewer opportunities, and also our high-risk students, who might take vocational classes important for when they graduate."

This year's fiscal hardships also are hitting small and traditionally more affluent school districts.

South Pasadena, with 3,434 students, faces a $1.2-million deficit in a $12-million budget for next year. The district has notified 24 teachers, five administrators and some principals that their jobs may be eliminated.

The district may also eliminate its music and theater programs and may reduce its English-as-a-second language classes at a time when immigrants with limited English skills are entering the district in larger numbers.

San Marino's Board of Education gave provisional approval earlier this month to cutting psychologists and counselors and almost 10 full-time teaching positions, which would affect classes in French, drama, dance and industrial arts.

The 2,720-student district faces up to $500,000 in cuts from a $10.9-million budget. For the first time in recent memory, San Marino may have to lay off employees and slash instructional programs.

"The fact that we are cutting into instructional services outlines the severity of the financial picture," said Chris Cox, director of fiscal services.

In the El Monte City School District, administrators are recommending a 20% cut in supplies and services to come up with $1.5 million needed to replenish emergency reserves in the 10,679-pupil district.

"We're the same as everyone else--bleak," said Dave Sandell, assistant superintendent of business. The district has a $35-million annual budget and has reached all the way down into school locker rooms to save money. Sandell said the district will stop supplying towels to physical education students, which should save $75,000 a year.

Some proposed cuts:

* Arcadia Unified, with 7,663 students, may have to cut 12 full-time positions, including teachers and counselors.

* The beleaguered 22,006-student Pasadena Unified School District, which must carve at least $2.7 million from its $65-million budget, may keep sixth-graders in grade schools rather than move them up to middle schools. This would trim transportation costs and reduce teacher and counselor ranks by up to seven positions, said Mark Facer, a financial consultant.

By May, Facer said, the district will draw up recommendations for cuts that may reduce teaching support staff, including aides, consultants and curriculum advisers. No teacher layoffs are planned, though; Facer said the reduced positions will be met through attrition.

* Officials at 25,719-student Pomona Unified said the district has cut 45 teaching and staff positions but does not plan any layoffs. In order to shave $2.3 million from its $83 million budget, the district has frozen programs it had intended to start this year, said Patrick Leier, assistant superintendent of business services.

Pomona also plans to reduce staffing and funding for attendance counselors, math specialists, drama, reading and audio-visual programs, among others.

* Rowland Unified, which has 18,661 students and must cut $3 million over the next two years, anticipates program cuts but no layoffs, said spokeswoman Diane Ho.

* Temple City Unified, with 4,215 students, must make $1.5 million in cuts. But officials say they won't lay off teachers.

* Mountain View School District, which must cut $900,000 out of a $35-million budget for 8,762 students, may enlarge class size from the current 30 students per classroom, said John Stover, the district's assistant superintendent of business.

But at least one San Gabriel Valley school district has good news.

"We're fine for this year," said Gary Matsumoto, director of fiscal services for the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District, which has a $120-million annual budget and 21,764 students.

"We're not going to be making any budget cuts because we went through ours two or three years ago. We've had our hard time already."

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