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Los Angeles Mayor Asks For After-School Care

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Mayor Tom Bradley of Los Angeles has proposed making after-school services available to every elementary student in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The proposed program, which would cost an estimated $40 million annually over the next 20 years, would be funded entirely through the city's Community Redevelopment Agency, thus bypassing the need for formal approval by a legislative body.

The agency collects all new tax revenues generated by redevelopment efforts in the downtown area, and traditionally uses that money to promote further development.
Mayor Bradley's proposal, together with a much larger program under consideration that would promote the development of affordable housing, could mark "a major change in the way those funds are used,'' said Mark D. Fabiani, counsel to the Mayor.

The CRA board, which is appointed by the mayor, last week voted to provide $2 million for a pilot program that will begin next fall in 10 schools.

The United Way of Los Angeles estimates that 120,000 "latchkey'' children in the city would take advantage of after-school programs if they were available.

Preliminary estimates by the mayor's staff indicate that offering services to these children would cost a total of $700 million to $800 million over 20 years, although this amount could be reduced substantially by charging fees to some parents.

The money would cover the costs of keeping all elementary schools open to offer basic child-care activities, special tutoring for students who are experiencing difficulties in school, and anti-drug and anti-gang programs.

Details of the program will be developed by a panel the mayor is expected to appoint soon.

Unusual Funding Process

Due to the unusual source of funding for the proposed program, Mr. Fabiani said, its future hinges on whether other parties with an interest in how C.R.A. funds are spent can be persuaded not to launch legal actions to block the move.

The agency's activities are part of a controversial redevelopment strategy permitted under California law and used in a number of other cities nationwide.

Typically, a city's tax base is frozen at the time such a redevelopment agency is created, and all new tax "increments'' collected as a result of redevelopment are used to build the infrastructure required for further development efforts.

City and county officials in Los Angeles have criticized the redevelopment process for robbing other public services of needed revenues.

A 1977 court-approved stipulation entered into by all parties with an interest in the Los Angeles CRA's proceeds set the maximum collection and spending level for the agency at $750 million. The stipulation could effectively end the agency's function by sometime in 1992, Mr. Fabiani said.

The fate of the after-school and housing programs depends largely on whether any of the parties to the 1977 agreement insist that the stipulation be enforced, he said.

Given changes in state law, he added, "there is a real legal question whether the 1977 judgment is still valid.''

"That question will ultimately be resolved in court,'' he predicted, "unless the various parties can reach an agreement.''

The CRA is expected to collect nearly $4 billion over the next two decades, Mr. Fabiani said.

Mayor Bradley earlier proposed spending half of that total on an affordable-housing and homeless-services program.

"The Mayor is hoping that the housing and after-school programs will be something everyone can agree on,'' Mr. Fabiani said.

Such an agreement would also allow the CRA to continue spending the balance of its funds on redevelopment efforts--the portion of the plan that is likely to draw the most heated opposition.

The board of education, which operates about 90 child-care centers with services similar to those contained in the new proposal, is planning to present Mayor Bradley with a commendation for his efforts, a board spokesman said.

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