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Burbank Unified officials, community members take fliers out on awareness campaign

Burbank Unified officials, community members take fliers out on awareness campaign
Parents, students and staff pick up bundles of informational flyers at Burbank High School to be passed out throughout city on Saturday. The flyers contained info about budgets cuts and the need for a parcel tax measure to raise funds for the school district. (Raul Roa / Burbank Leader)

Dozens of Burbank community members, including students, parents, teachers and administrators, gathered Saturday morning at Burbank High School to discuss one activity that unites them all: getting out information that could improve the school district’s financial health.

Burbank Unified officials held an awareness campaign to highlight what they said is a potential “risk” to the quality of education at the district’s primary and secondary schools because of budget cuts and a lack of state funding.

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The effort also included talk about the need for a possible parcel tax on a ballot in 2020.

“This is about multiple points of awareness,” Burbank Unified Supt. Matt Hill said. “Many people don’t know what’s going on with public education. Some people think that the city runs the schools, and [city officials] pay for all the school district income. No, that’s not how it works.”

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Community members met at Burbank High at 8:45 a.m., collected materials and then marched through the city handing out fliers, conversing with residents and providing information about the district’s anticipated $3.5-million structural deficit.

All but one board member, Charlene Tabet, who had a prior commitment, handed out fliers.

Meanwhile, the usually buttoned-up Hill wore a polo shirt and jeans, though his route was not as casual.

“When I walked my zone, I just had one dog really come after me,” Hill said, with a chuckle. “Anybody else that I encountered seemed very interested.”

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The double-sided flier Hill and others carried was the result of a collaboration between the Burbank Educational Foundation, Hill and the district’s public information officer, Kimberley Clark.

The flier outlined a few items, including the district’s need to make cuts, which include laying off three employees and reduction of teaching and training materials agreed to by school board members in March.

One idea disputed in the flier was the claim that California’s schools were fully funded.

“After adjusting for inflation,” the flier states, “Burbank schools receive the same amount of money … before the recession in 2008.”

Information on the flier also sought to dispel some misconceptions, including the incorrect belief that the city’s sales tax revenue goes toward schools, according to Burbank Unified officials.

“We’re in the education business and our whole job is to make sure the whole community is educated about the situation, and then they can make an informed decision,” Hill said.

On top of awareness, there were also ideas and links for more information and ways voters can provide their input.

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The flier listed ed100.org as a learning resource about school funding, and district officials lauded community members who completed a quick ed100 course during a recent school board meeting.

Hill said community members can ask him additional questions or make comments at MattHill@BurbankUSD.org.

“One of the elements of the flier was to ask for feedback,” Hill said. “Now is the time to weigh in.”

While board members and Hill may have been canvassing the community Saturday, talk of the need for a parcel tax has been ongoing since the district’s 10-cents-per-square-foot annual tax, known as Measure QS, was narrowly defeated in November by 938 votes.

The money from that tax would have generated a little more than $9 million annually and provided district employees with a one-time 3% pay raise.

Burbank Unified school board members have not yet committed to a new proposed parcel tax, though that appears to be a formality.

The governing body has already contracted research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, known as FM3, to conduct a new round of polling on the issue taking place this week.

Last year, the firm predicted 65% of Burbank voters either leaned toward or would probably or definitely vote “yes” for a parcel tax, which was short of the two-thirds (66.7%) needed to win.

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