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Burbank Unified focuses on March election votes over fundraising

Supt. Matt Hill at State of the Schools Breakfast
Burbank Unified Supt. Matt Hill speaks during the annual State of the Schools Breakfast, hosted by the Burbank Educational Foundation at the Castaway restaurant.
(Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

Those familiar with the Burbank Unified budget could have felt déjà vu during this year’s State of the Schools Breakfast, a fundraiser hosted by the Burbank Educational Foundation at the Castaway restaurant on Wednesday.

Burbank Unified Supt. Matt Hill said he intentionally used some of last year’s slides in his presentation outlining the district’s financial status, which hasn’t changed for the better.

Hill and Debbie Kukta, assistant superintendent of administrative services, described cuts to be considered because of a structural deficit of $3.2 million next school year.

Attendees at State of the Schools Breakfast
City and school district officials, faculty members, police, local business owners and others gathered for State of the Schools Breakfast.
(Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
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On Feb. 6, the school board approved laying off nearly 30 full-time employees at the end of this school year, including elementary music and physical-education teachers. About 30 classified-employee layoffs could be announced in the spring.

Other parts of the cost-cutting plan — also discussed during town hall meetings — include discontinuing programs such as stage-tech animation and increasing class sizes.

Other parts of the cost-cutting plan — also discussed during town hall meetings — include discontinuing programs such as stage-tech animation and increasing class sizes.”

“The district has pinched and stretched every dollar and it continues to do so,” said board president Armond Aghakhanian.

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With help from local foundations, Burbank Unified was able to maintain music instruction at elementary schools last year after proposing to cut three teaching positions.

Although the purpose of the event is to raise funds, Ana Connell, president of Burbank Educational Foundation, said organization officials can’t fundraise their way out of the budget cuts.

“In total, we were able to donate over $170,000 to the school district last year,” Connell said.

“That was just unbelievably difficult and took so many hours to raise that amount of money. Unfortunately, it’s just a drop in the bucket,” she added.

School officials said the long-term financial solution would be passage of Measure I, a proposed parcel tax with a 10-cents-per-square-foot annual fee for property owners to generate $9.1 million for the school district on an annual basis for 12 years. A similar proposed parcel tax, called Measure QS, failed to pass by 938 votes last year.

“The best thing we can do, whether you support Measure I or you’re against Measure I, is to make sure that voter turnout at Burbank is at an all-time high on March 3,” Hill said.

He listed Pasadena, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Santa Monica as middle-class-to-affluent cities that have passed similar school-funding measures.

Burbank High Sirens
Burbank High Sirens performed at the annual State of the Schools Breakfast.
(Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
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Students from John Burroughs’ jazz band and Burbank High’s choir singers serenaded the audience during the event. Burbank Unified alumni made an appearance in a video about their roots in the city and how their education shaped their adult lives.

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