Audit praises Burbank Unified's spending cuts, but calls for ongoing vigilance

Burbank Unified has done a good job of tamping down spending, but will need to maintain its vigilance after spending $4 million more than it took in for 2011-12, a recent audit concluded.

The $4-million overage was due to $2 million in state education funding cuts and an equal rise in staff salaries and benefits, according to the audit prepared by Vicenti Lloyd & Stutzman.

Despite the hit, the auditors determined Burbank Unified should remain solvent over the next few years.

Tina Henton, a partner at the firm, said 87% of the district’s funds “hinges on what happens in Sacramento.”

“The dramatic cuts that have happened in the last four to five years have just been unprecedented,” Henton told the Burbank school board at a recent meeting. “I think you are holding up very well.”

The report praised the district for reducing spending on staff and supplies to maintain reserves amid the state’s economic hurdles over the last year.

But the audit warned that board members and district staff would need to stay financially vigilant, noting that the district spent $4 million more than the $112.4 million they received in General Fund revenue in 2011-12.

Burbank Unified’s long-term debt — mostly left over from its late 1990s bond — was over $102 million in 2012, compared to more than $105 million it owed in 2010, according to the report.

Henton’s most significant recommendation for the district is to cross-train employees to handle financial records so the process doesn’t stop when life events or vacations interfere.

“It will behoove our employees because it protects them ultimately,” said school board President Larry Applebaum.

One financial buffer created in the last year was the enrollment revenue the district earned by serving nearly 400 students who would have otherwise attended neighboring school districts, but who were accepted because a parent works within the city’s boundaries.

About 14,890 students were enrolled in 2012, an increase of more than 50 students compared to the year before and more than 150 compared to the 2010 school year.

Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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