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Layoffs, reductions proposed by Burbank Unified

Layoffs, reductions proposed by Burbank Unified
Burbank Unified Supt. Matt Hill, right, seated next to board members Steve Frintner, left, and Charlene Tabet, center, during a recent special meeting, released a proposal to close the district's $3.5 million structural deficit on Thursday that included reductions and layoffs. (File Photo)

Two months after voters rejected Burbank Unified’s proposed parcel tax, known as Measure QS, in the Nov. 6 election, consequences stemming from the measure’s failure were outlined with potential layoffs and cuts.

Burbank Unified Supt. Matt Hill presented the district’s first proposal to close a $3.5-million structural deficit, which the parcel tax would have addressed, during a special board meeting at Burbank’s Adult School on Thursday in front of a standing-room-only audience.

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The plan called for fundraising and leveraging new restricted funding and — should both efforts fall short — reductions in programs and personnel.

More than 30 residents and teachers voiced their concerns to Hill and school board members during a passionate public-comment portion of the meeting.

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“The frustration, the pain, the anger toward myself and staff, we have all been going through the exact same things since Measure QS failed,” said Hill, who added the board may seek a new parcel tax in 2020. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, that was a punch in the gut.”

Hill added, “We fought so hard for [the parcel tax] because we knew how much Measure QS could do for our community.”

Seven employees may be laid off, two positions could be eliminated and some workers may move from full time to part time on the labor side of the proposal.

In term of programs, music, math and English intervention as well as career technical training, childhood development and several other departments may take a hit.

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Elementary school music was listed for the chopping block as Hill’s proposal called for the laying off of three of the district’s five music teachers at the elementary level.

That move would save Burbank Unified roughly $275,000 annually and leave the district with one music teacher per five elementary schools.

The majority of the proposed downsizing is set for the district office because the plan calls for laying off two directors — one for elementary schools and the other for wellness – along with their administrative assistants for a savings of about $526,000 a year.

A breakdown of some of the costs the district is proposing to cut given its current deficit.
A breakdown of some of the costs the district is proposing to cut given its current deficit. (Steve Greenberg)

The plan also called for the elimination of a vacant assistant principal position at Jefferson Elementary, non-renewal of a teacher on special assignment for the arts and career technical education and the downgrading of the superintendent’s staff from full time to part time.

As for programs, the proposal calls for slicing $213,000 from the deferred maintenance annual budget, which means projects may be postponed. There would also be cuts to math and English intervention at the elementary and secondary levels and a reduction for social emotional materials.

The total for all cuts, reductions and eliminations would be roughly $1.9 million annually.

On top of the cuts, there were changes listed to restrict funding, including eliminating about $603,000 in General Fund financing for child development, applying for two $400,000 grants and the use of Title II monies to pay for gifted and talented education.

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For their part, board members and Hill did not take a 2% raise last year.

“I want to be clear on that and get that out there because I think it’s important,” board member Steve Ferguson said. “The superintendent went to the board and said, ‘I’ll forego’ and I think that’s important leadership.”

The wild card for reductions would be philanthropy, which was not factored into the proposal.

Hill challenged the 25,000 residents who voted “yes” on Measure QS to fulfill their commitment and donate $170, which the parcel tax would have cost the average resident annually, to the Burbank Educational Foundation at befgives.org.

The foundation had received a little more than $50,000 in donations.

“One thing I do want to urge everybody is to please harness your passion and your energy around this issue to get educated as to where our school district gets its money,” said Ana Connell, the foundation’s vice president of fundraising. “We all need to reach out to our state and federal legislators.”

The next significant date will be March 15, when district officials are expected to send out layoff notices. Burbank Unified is also expected to finalize a budget in June with or without the cuts and local officials will have a better idea of funding after Gov. Gavin Newsom announces his revised budget in May.

“In the final budget in June, they have to say these are the positions we’ll cut,” Hill said. “That’s the point of no return. Technically, up until the first day of school, you can rescind it, but that’s rare.”

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