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Glendale Unified looks to chop $10 million in spending

The Glendale Unified School District board members, from left, student board member Sophia James, me
Glendale Unified School District board members, from left, Shant Sahakian, Vice President Jennifer Freemon, President Gregory Krikorian, interim Supt. Kelly King, Armina Gharpetian and Nayiri Nahabedian, discuss potential budget cuts.
(Raul Roa / Glendale News-Press)

Cutbacks — whether immediate or done over a few years — appear to be in the offing for the Glendale Unified School District, with the potential for layoffs in the future.

District staff presented an updated solvency plan to slice $10 million out of budgets for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years, with the goal to close two years of deficit spending during a school board meeting last week.

While no layoffs were specifically outlined, the proposal presented by Stephen Dickinson, the district’s chief business and financial officer, called for several budget reductions.

Administrative and management staff levels are to be trimmed by $600,000 either this school year or spread out over the next two years, while classified staffing levels are to be cut by $800,000.


Certified staffing — or teachers — would also be reduced by $1.5 million because of declining student enrollment in the district.

“If you decline, you have to make roughly the same percentage of staffing cuts as the enrollment loss,” Dickinson said. “If you lose 1%, you probably need to lose 1% of the teaching [staff] to keep up.”

Interim Supt. Kelly King, participating in her first regular board meeting in her new role since taking over for dismissed Supt. Winfred B. Roberson, said district staff members are working with department heads to see what cuts can be made, but fell short of saying there would be no job losses.

“What is the percentage of staffing we give based on the number of students?” King asked. “If we are overstaffed in those areas, we may need to look at options with personnel in the management side of it.”


This year’s enrollment is estimated to be 25,790 students, according to data from the California Department of Education, which is the lowest for the district in at least 10 years, and represents a drop of nearly 1,000 students compared to the 2008-09 school year.

At best, Glendale Unified’s enrollment will remain flat in 2019-20, though district staff members are saying a 2% decline, or a loss of 550 students, is possible.

School officials estimate the district will receive $9,759 per student from the state for the 2019-20 school year, so every student Glendale Unified loses could result in almost $10,000 hit.

School officials also plan to decrease the district’s health-and-wellness benefit rate from 9% to 8%, which will save $300,000.

Another proposed cut is the termination of the middle school summer program, which would save the district $317,867.

The program’s possible elimination is part of the slashing of $2.1 million in services and supplies that includes $1.1 million in office supplies, along with $150,000 worth of copier and printer equipment services.

“To be clear to the community, we shouldn’t say we’re saving money,” board member Armina Gharpetian said. “These are not savings, but, literally, they’re cuts.”

Dickinson presented three approaches for cutting, labeled as conservative, middle and least conservative.


The conservative option calls for roughly $8.6 million in cuts during the 2019-20 school year and an additional trimming of $1.4 million in 2020-21.

The middle option would mean about $5 million in cuts each year, while the least conservative model calls for $3.3 million in reductions during 2019-20 and then $6.7 million in 2020-21.

Dickinson’s plan is an update of the district’s qualified budget filed with the L.A. County Office of Education on Dec. 11 that called for $5 million in cuts for the 2019-20 school year.

The district has been deficit spending — or spending more money than it’s bringing in — for two years, and school officials indicated in December the district “may not be able to meet its financial obligations for the current and subsequent two fiscal years.”

While the updated plan is gloomy, there were a couple of silver linings because of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s revised state budget.

Newsom’s budget proposal includes an increase in per-student funding by 3.46%, which is higher than Glendale Unified’s estimate of 2.57% and could result in an additional $2 million in the local district’s 2019-20 budget.

The state is also investing $3 billion that is generally earmarked for districts as one-time funding to help lower the contribution rate that districts pay into the State Teachers Retirement System, commonly known as STRS.

In 2019-20, the district’s rate will drop from 18.13% to 17.13%, for a savings just under $1.28 million.


Lower STRS rates are expected to save the district roughly $3.75 million over the next three school years.

District staff members are expected to present a more formalized plan during the next school board meeting on Tuesday.

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