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District struggles to cut $4 million

Molly Shore

Increased health and welfare benefit costs, combined with

unanticipated expenditures for special education, could bankrupt the

Burbank Unified School District if steps are not taken immediately to


reduce costs, administrators warned this week.

Speaking Thursday night at a special school board meeting to

address the 2003-04 budget, Steve Bradley, the district’s assistant

superintendent for business services, predicted that annual increases


in health and welfare benefits of $2 million could spell trouble for

the district.

“If caps are not put on these costs, we’re broke in 2004-05,”

Bradley said, adding that by then, health insurance and worker’s

compensation costs are expected to increase by as much as 30%. “The

money we get from the state doesn’t keep up with increases in health

and welfare.”

The superintendent’s budget committee, composed of parents,


teachers, union leaders and business people, presented its proposed

budget reductions Thursday night. In working toward the $4 million it

needs to keep the district solvent in 2003-04, the group has come

with $2.36 million in reductions so far.

Debbie Kukta, budget committee chairwoman, told the board that the

panel does not want to reduce special education services, but members

believe it is necessary for the district to renegotiate with the

state for additional money. This year, special education ate up $3.8


million of the district’s general fund.

Supt. Gregory Bowman, who has reviewed the committee’s budget

proposal, is recommending slightly more than $4 million in cuts,

which would include closing schools and the district office during

July to save $548,246. Bowman also recommended cutting the equivalent

of two middle school assistant principals for a savings of $216,018,

and eliminating three middle school media specialists to save


The committee, which initially recommended those cuts, has since

voted against them.

Even if the $4 million in cuts were made for 2003-04, the district

will continue to be in a financial bind in future years due to

escalating costs. Bradley predicted that in 2004-05, the district

could face a $3.7-million deficit, which in 2005-06 could reach

nearly $11 million.