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L.A. School Employees Implored To Accept Pay Cuts

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A fact-finding report examining the Los Angeles Unified School District's financial condition urges employees to accept pay cuts this year to help the district avert bankruptcy, noting that a "conscious and consistent effort" by the district to raise its employees' salaries is a leading cause of its current budget problems.

Since 1983, the report says, when the district set out to raise the pay of its teachers, administrators, and other employees, salaries have increased 90.93 percent. During the same period, the increase in state money to pay for salaries was only 49.61 percent.

The calculations do not include the amount of money spent for step increases and salary-schedule advances, the report notes.

But those raises also have been generous, it says, allowing a typical new teacher hired in 1983 and moving through the salary schedule with seven academic credits per year to earn a total salary increase of 214 percent in eight years.

"The extremely favorable salary treatment afforded all district employees over the past several years places the employees in the position where they can and should be expected to make a temporary sacrifice to help keep the district fiscally afloat," the report concludes.

The report was issued Oct. 24 by a three-person fact-finding panel after negotiations between the district and the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, the union representing principals and other administrators, reached an impasse.

The district has proposed a $107.4million package of pay-related budget cuts that would save $70 million by reducing all employees' salaries by 3 percent this year. It has withdrawn a request to freeze their advancements on the salary schedule.

That money would be paid back, with interest, as soon as the district receives enough money to do so.

The administrators' union has agreed to the proposal, but United Teachers of Los Angeles has not. A fact-finding report on issues related to U.T.L.A.'S contract negotiations is expected to be released this week.

Eli Brent, president of A.A.L.A., said the union has agreed to the reductions because "we feel very strongly that there has to be a time when you pay back the district."

"It's for the good of the kids," said Mr. Brent, who estimated his members would see their pay cut an average of 6.5 percent by the agreement.

But Helen Bernstein, president of U.T.L.A., said she doubted members would "ever see a penny" of the money if they vote to accept the pay cut.

She dismissed most of the findings in the fact-finding report.

"Fact-finding reports never seem to reflect our point of view," Ms. Bernstein said. "Nobody ever implements them, anyway."

The fact-finding report makes note of that trend, noting that in both 1987 and 1989, the school board approved salary increases that exceeded pay hikes recommended in fact-finding reports.

$274-Million Deficit

Over the past three years, the report notes, the school district has slashed $626 million from its budget. Of those cuts, only 51 percent affected employees, while the rest of the shortfall was made up by spending cash reserves and cutting supplies, maintenance, and equipment.

When employees have been affected, the school board has minimized the impact of cuts on teachers and has trimmed classified employees and administrators more than their proportionate share of the budget, the report says.

But Los Angeles is facing a budget deficit of $274 million for the 199192 fiscal year and can no longer maintain its policy of avoiding affecting its employees or their compensation, the report says, particularly because 84 percent of the budget is devoted to personnel costs.

The report also examined whether Los Angeles spends more money on administration than other school districts in Los Angeles County and in California. The teachers' union has long contended that a bloated bureaucracy is to blame for the district's financial woes.

However, the report found that the district's spending for administration per student was the secondlowest of the 42 school districts in the county and fourth-lowest among the 21 largest unified school districts in the state.

Measured as a percent of the general-fund budget allocated to administration, the report found that Los Angeles spends 2.87 percent of its money on administration, the lowest of the 42 Los Angeles districts.

But it ranks third among the 21 largest districts in California in spending for the salaries and benefits of classroom personnel, which absorb 68.9 percent of the budget, the report found.

The district's salary policy has made its administrators the highest paid in the county, while only teachers in Beverly Hills make more per student than Los Angeles teachers.

At a press conference last week, Warren Furntani, president of the school beard, said the fact-finding report appeared to "validate" the district's contention that it has a lean administration.

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