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State Exaggerated Figures, Montebello Official Says

May 30, 1991

A Montebello Unified School District official says the state controller has exaggerated the district's financial troubles in a recent report that named Montebello and a Kern County school district as the two systems most likely to become insolvent.

"It was a hatchet job," Assistant Supt. Walter Popkin said. "We never asked for state help. We're not going to."

Specifically, the district disagrees with the amount of deficit spending Controller Gray Davis lists for the district. The district outspent its revenues by $18.5 million over the last two years, not the $28.4 million reported by the state, Popkin said. He added that district salaries and benefits rose by 15% in the last two years, not more than 20%, as state auditors claim. Popkin said the state also overstated how much the district spent for expansion and renovation projects.

In response to Popkin's remarks, Davis said, "All of the information available to my office comes from reports filed by Montebello. The most recent report was filed May 2."

Davis said his auditors are concerned about past spending practices. "I would be delighted to make our chief educational auditor available to assist the district with its difficulties," he said.

Popkin does not contest that the district is experiencing hard times. Last month, the Montebello school board approved $19 million in budget cuts that could lead to the layoff of about 200 employees, mostly teachers. The cuts take effect July 1. In addition, the board authorized the sale of bonds to provide $7.5 million in emergency revenue so the district can meet its June payroll.

Initial Plans OKd for New School Serving Bell, Cudahy

The Los Angeles City Board of Education has approved initial plans for a new elementary school in the Bell-Cudahy area. Bell Elementary School No. 3, to be located at Wilcox Avenue and Live Oak Street, will straddle the boundaries of Bell and Cudahy and provide classroom space for about 1,000 students.

The $11.6-million school will include 23 classrooms, offices, a library and dining room. It should be completed by mid-1993.

20 Whittier Teachers Opt for Early Retirement

About 20 teachers from the Whittier Union High School District, 10 times more than usual, are taking advantage of retirement incentives, Assistant Supt. Lowell Shira said.

Early retirements save the district money because new teachers can be hired for less than districts must pay experienced instructors. Numerous school systems are promoting such programs to cut costs from next year's tight budget.

The incentive consists of adding two years to a teacher's seniority to qualify the teacher for a higher pension. "Typically, it amounts to about a 4% increase in retirement pension," Shira said.

The district employs about 470 teachers.

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