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Raises may be small, nonexistent for Burbank Unified employees

During a 24-minute special meeting two days before spring break, Burbank Unified school officials made a significant financial decision tied to budget and layoff concerns, and it could impact future raises for district employees.

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The school board agreed to several cuts and three layoffs, including one music instructor, as it grapples with a $3.5-million structural deficit.

The point of the March 14 meeting was to file a positive budget with the Los Angeles County Office of Education before its second interim deadline on March 18 and avoid potential intervention by county staff.

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While district staff members achieved their goals, they also noted that raises for district employees, including the nearly 900 members of the Burbank Teachers Assn., were in jeopardy.

“What we wanted to show is it’s going to be challenging,” Burbank Unified Supt. Matt Hill said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. “I’ve been receiving a lot of questions with people saying, ‘Your [budget] is going to be positive, so you’re good.’”

Hill added, “That didn’t factor in raises for the next three years. When you start talking about raises, it’s hard to get your head around what that means.”

The handful of audience members at the district headquarters were handed a 10-page packet with photos of 20 PowerPoint slides that included facts, figures and myriad projections.

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The 19th photo included a multiyear projection should Burbank Unified offer 2% raises to employees, annually, for this school year, along with the proceeding two.

The graphic noted that, while the district could afford a 2% pay hike this year, its reserves would dip below the state-mandated 3% threshold the following two years.

“We added a 2% increase every year for this year, next year and 2020-21 and what does that do to our financials?” asked David Jaynes, the district’s assistant superintendent of administrative services, on March 14.

“In [school year] 2018-19, we would still have our 3% requirement. We’d have 3.7%,” Jaynes said, but added that “by [school year] 19-20, we’d be short of that 3%. We would be at 2.7% and then by 2020-21, we’d be down to 0.2% or basically 0 if we had a 2% increase every year.”

When questioned, Jaynes said he was not comfortable disclosing what the district’s salary offer to employees would be.

A 2% raise next year alone, according to the district’s projections, would put Burbank Unified roughly $7 million in the red.

“You’re looking at over $7 million of deficit cumulative,” Hill said. “If we’re going to start giving raises to our employees — which we should — we’re going to have start cutting around $2.5 million a year or get new revenue for at least $2.5 million a year.”

Diana Abasta, president of the Burbank Teachers Assn., did not immediately respond to emails or calls for comment.

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The teachers union has made its offer known publicly.

Last September, union members voted 424-76 to accept a 2% raise for the 2017-18 contract, retroactive to July 1, 2017.

The 2% compromise was a significant departure from the association’s first proposal of an 8.1% raise made in December 2017.

The pay increase, however, was the first in two years for the association, whose members went without a raise from 2007 to 2014.

One compromise the district and union agreed upon was putting a proposed parcel tax on the ballot this past November. It was known as Measure QS, and it would have provided all employees with a one-time 3% raise.

The parcel tax failed to hit its two-thirds threshold among local voters by 938 votes.

Hill has floated the idea of another parcel tax for 2020, and the board voted to approve a new round of polling about the possible measure on Thursday.

What has not been disclosed is whether another parcel tax would include a teacher pay increase.

“It’s a little too soon to tell. That’s why we want to do polling,” Hill said. “We want to make sure that we get the feedback from the community.”

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