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L.A. Unified Finds $33 Million More Left Over

August 12, 2003|Erika Hayasaki | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Unified School District announced Monday that its budget balance from last school year is $33 million more than previously anticipated and that the extra money will fill the holes left by deeper-than-expected cuts in the current year.

The district's budget director, Lorenzo Tyner, said the balance may seem large but actually is close to projections in the overall $5.4-billion operating budget.

Last year, the district was criticized by teachers union officials after district officials discovered an additional $228 million at the end of the budget cycle and after schools had been forced to increase class sizes in upper grades. Tyner called last year's increase an "anomaly" and said additional monitoring had helped to keep new final tallies tighter.

The teachers union president, John Perez, said the public should be concerned about the larger balance than district officials had predicted in June. He said it would affect negotiations over a school board proposal that the district's 80,000 employees give back 2 1/2 days of vacation or classroom preparation time.

"They have had a history in their budgeting of not being able to adequately and accurately predict their budget," he said of district administrators.

"What that tells us is they probably don't need to furlough the district employees," Perez said.

The unpaid furlough days would save $35 million, but the plan must first be approved as part of union contract negotiations.

District officials said most of the $33 million is spoken for and will not allow them to withdraw the furlough request.

About $19 million, they said, is restricted to such expenses as English language classes and instructional materials.

The remaining $14 million will offset other budget encroachments, including the extra $6 million that the district is expected to lose as a result of final state reductions.

It will also help offset $24 million in savings the board thought it could achieve by reducing staff development days; officials later learned that plan could not be implemented.

The $33 million is part of $490 million being moved from last year's budget to this year's. In addition, the school board in June cut nearly $359 million from its 2003-04 budget.

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