Burbank Unified approves classified staff layoffs and more budget-cutting measures

The Burbank Unified school board unanimously approved a fiscal stabilization plan on Thursday, following the failure of Measure I at the polls in March. Pictured, the Burbank Unified School District's headquarters on Olive Avenue.
(File Photo)

The first virtual Burbank Unified school board meeting consisted of coming to terms with a new reality — not just post-school closures, but post-Measure I failure.

For months, board of education members warned there would be layoffs of teachers and staff as well as cuts to school programs if the proposed measure didn’t pass in the March primary election.

The measure, which would have generated $9.1 million for the district annually for 12 years, was defeated by 2.6%.

According to Debbie Kukta, the district’s assistant superintendent of administrative services, Burbank Unified needs to make roughly $3.8 million cuts for the 2020-21 school year in order to balance the district’s budget.

The fiscal stabilization plan unanimously approved by the school board on Thursday details the layoffs and cuts to school programs such as stage-craft technology classes, which are important for events such as plays and show choir productions, according to the course’s supporters.

Nearly 30 core-subject, arts and physical-education teachers already received pink slips on March 15. Teacher layoffs are expected to save the district nearly $1.7 million for the next school year.

Sixteen classified staff positions are being cut, including a special-education facilitator, attendance technician, technology support specialist and several instructional assistants working with disabled students or in a childcare center.

All positions are currently vacant except for three — an employee benefits technician in human resources and two instructional assistant positions at Washington Elementary and Burbank Adult School.

An hour is being reduced for four part-time instructional assistants, who work at Roosevelt, Harte, Edison and Stevenson elementary schools.

Public comment was submitted via email or voicemail for the virtual meeting.

Joseph Ayala, president of the Burbank chapter of the California School Employees Assn., submitted a comment suggesting the board should freeze the vacant classified positions rather than eliminating them.

In response, Burbank Supt. Matt Hill said that he doesn’t want to make the cuts, but the district can’t financially cover expenses after the failure of Measure I, the coronavirus’ impact on school costs and a possible recession.

“I can assure you that staff and I have had many conversations about each of these positions, whether it’s a reduction of hours or position. We’ve been following the board’s policy... We are shifting duties. We are looking at other jobs to get as much done with fewer resources,” Hill said.

The board members received 80 comments about the proposed elimination of the stage-craft technology classes.

“This community relies on stage tech. It’s not a program we are trying to eliminate. It’s part of a districtwide restructuring,” Hill said.

The classes are part of a larger proposed cut to the career educational tech program, which also includes animal care, animation and film-production courses.

Hill said the district is working on a solution. Officials plan to move the stage-craft class to an adult school program that would be fee-based. High school students would be offered priority enrollment and a discount to take the course during their sixth period.

School breakfast and lunches will cost an additional 5 to 50 cents per meal starting the next school year. Revenue from price increases is expected to be about $172,000. Meal prices haven’t been raised since 2016, according to a report. Students who qualify for free or reduced school lunches will not be affected.

Meal prices will change to the following:

  • Elementary breakfast increase from $1.75 to $2.25
  • Elementary lunch increase from $3 to $3.50
  • Secondary breakfast increase from $2 to $2.50
  • Secondary lunch increase from $3.25 to $3.75

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