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School Board Retains Adviser in New Post

March 02, 1995|JON GARCIA | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The county-imposed overseer monitoring Inglewood's once-troubled school finances got a new job last week when the school board hired him as a financial consultant.

County education officials had appointed Richard Bertain in September, 1993, as fiscal adviser for the Inglewood Unified School District, saying that the district was unable to resolve its fiscal problems.

Bertain completed his advisory job Tuesday, three months early, after the county concluded that the monitoring is no longer needed.

But he will remain in Inglewood a few more months. Saying that Bertain's fiscal expertise and familiarity with district finances is too good to lose, the school board voted 3 to 1 on Feb. 22 to offer Bertain a consulting contract through June. He started the new job Wednesday and will receive $50 an hour for his services, not to exceed $36,000. When Bertain was the county's monitor, the district had been required to pay about $84,000 of his $104,000-a-year salary.

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Bertain, a former El Segundo schools chief, became fiscal monitor when the Inglewood district was confronted with a $2-million deficit and had dipped into a state-required 3% reserve. Today, the deficit gap has been closed and the reserve has been restored.

"We're out of the fiscal adviser business now," said Supt. McKinley Nash, adding that Bertain's new duties will be different.

Bertain's job had been to oversee how district administrators and board members spent money. Bertain had veto power over all financial decisions, Nash said.

Under a new arrangement, designed by Nash, Bertain will lose his veto power and start planning budgets for next year and years beyond, including how to trim a $500,000 transportation budget and how to find more than $300,000 for building modernization.

"It's crucially important for us to have the multiyear plans so we never have (the financial) problem again," Nash said.

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Board President Lois Hill Hale and board members Thomasina Reed and Loystene Irvin voted to keep Bertain in the new role. Board member Larry Aubry voted against the motion and Dexter Hendersen was absent.

The hiring was criticized by Christopher Graeber, spokesman for the California Professional Employees Union, which represents the district's secretaries, janitors and teaching aides.

"We haven't had a raise in three years," Graeber said. "If they want to pay $36,000 for the consultant, that's fine, but they should cut another administrator to pay for it. We feel they're blowing it."

But Nash said the money was already set aside. Had the board decided not to keep Bertain, it would have spent the funds to pay for an internal auditor as recommended by the State Board of Education, he said.

"The district had no choice," Nash said. "It was either Bertain, an internal auditor or not following the recommendation by state officials. We chose Bertain."

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