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Orange County Focus

PLACENTIA : Schools Hope State Can Reduce Deficit

June 22, 1991|TED JOHNSON

The Placentia Unified School District is still facing a $3.2-million deficit in 1991-92 budget after making a sweeping series of layoffs and cuts in programs, school officials said this week.

Meanwhile, district officials will be closely watching the state budget for signs that more money will be targeted for educational purposes.

Until then, they have proposed dipping into an $8.8-million reserve account to make up for the shortfall.

"We still have a lot of questions that have not been answered," said Kim Stallings, assistant superintendent for administrative services. "The whole state economy is a mystery right now."

Still, it is unlikely that the district will have a complete picture of the budget situation when the $92-million budget goes before the school board on Tuesday. School officials plan to come back to the school board in the next few months for approval of budget revisions.

The cutbacks affect elementary music and physical education classes a well as school counselors and nurses. District psychologists, assistant principals and English-as-a-second-language instructors have been trimmed.

The proposal also calls for staggering school starting times to make bus service more efficient.

Last month, the district eliminated 132 teaching and management positions along with 100 classified spots, including secretaries and maintenance workers.

School officials say most of the budget woes come from the loss of state income. They predict that the district will suffer a $2.5-million loss in income, including revenue from class-size reduction and mentor teacher programs along with lower lottery revenues.

In addition, the district is expected to make $966,000 less than the year before because of lower interest rates.

The district, too, is in the middle of a three-year teacher's contract that will include a 7% increase next year in salary and benefits. Even so, district officials said that at the time the contract was negotiated, the state and the district were in sound financial shape.

Although school trustees were hopeful of signs that the economy would pick up, they were concerned that a continued shortfall in state revenue over the next few years would threaten the district's solvency.

"I don't consider us in healthy shape," said Trustee Barbara Williams. "I'm agitated about this and concerned about this."

Still, the district could gain as much as $360,000 if the state restricts the county's ability to charge administrative costs to local agencies for collecting property taxes.

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