'It's disgusting': Burbank school officials lament state, federal budget proposals

Irritated by Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal and the $3.5 million less it could mean for Burbank Unified than originally expected, the Burbank Unified school board recently voted to send a letter to representatives alerting them of local budget challenges.

The two letters each request a meeting with state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) and Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale).

“I don’t know how else to describe it — we need to be in their hair,” said school board member Steve Ferguson. “Excuse my language, but I’m going to say it — It’s enough baffling with the [expletive]. Start funding education the way it needs to be funded. I’m tired of cutting our kids and playing with their futures.”

The district’s scenario is expressed in more polite terms in the letters: “While it is clear that there are extraordinary challenges in balancing the state’s budget, the progress that our students have made should not be put in jeopardy. If we expect this progress to continue, the state must provide adequate funding to do so.”

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The school board agreed to send the letters on the heels of hearing a budget report in which David Jaynes, assistant superintendent of Burbank Unified, said that when the current fiscal year is over in June, the district will have spent about $165.7 million, after receiving $150.8 million.

School officials cite the district’s growing mandatory obligation to pay into the state’s retirement systems for teachers and classified employees as one burden.

While Burbank Unified received about $6.1 million more in revenue this year compared to last, it also paid $2 million more into both retirement systems than it did the prior year.

There are also other expenses — the cost to hire more dual-language immersion teachers, contribute to the special education fund and give employees salary increases commensurate with the number of years they’ve worked in education or college credits they’ve earned, among other issues.

After meeting all those obligations, Jaynes estimates Burbank Unified will be left with $754,000 of the $6.1 million.

By the end of the 2018-19 fiscal year, Jaynes projects a $2 million shortfall.

He suggested officials start looking into budget reductions.

Larry Applebaum, school board president, suggested that Brown set aside some of his proposed “rainy day fund” to help soften the blow of the retirement costs.

Locally, Jaynes suggested contributing less money to cover deferred maintenance projects and freezing selective open positions, among other ideas, to save $3.1 million next year.

School board members are expected to further discuss reductions on April 6.

Officials also lamented President Donald Trump’s proposal to slash about $9 billion from the U.S. Department of Education budget, including his idea to eliminate federal Title 2 funding, which pays for teacher training.

Burbank Unified had allocated $422,000 in Title 2 funding this year, Applebaum said.

Trump’s plan would also increase charter school funding by $168 million.

Burbank Unified Supt. Matt Hill said he was appalled when he saw the proposal.

“It’s disgusting,” Hill said. “I don’t know what else to say. It is a deliberate dismantling of public education. If we don’t rally and start discussing it, it’s going to happen.”

kelly.corrigan@latimes.com

Twitter: @kellymcorrigan

Copyright © 2017, Burbank Leader

Anthony J. Portantino

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