Schools get a budget boost

The sky has stopped falling, at least momentarily.

After withstanding millions in reduced funding from Sacramento the last two years, Glendale and Burbank school districts got a boost in the 2010-11 state budget Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law Friday, almost three months late.

Furlough days scheduled in Glendale Unified will be dropped, and Glendale Community College will get sorely needed repayments and additional funding, officials said.

But officials in both sectors say that the state budget is imperfect. Midyear budget cuts could come by January, when a new governor will have to cope with a projected $10-billion deficit into 2011-12, local educators said.

"We have a budget, yeah, but did we really address the structural deficit? No," said Ron Nakasone, vice president of administrative services at Glendale Community College. "We've bought ourselves a year again, and we've done that the last couple of years."

The additional funding moves Glendale Community College closer to a balanced budget, he said. Trustees approved a budget in June that required another $1.86 million in cuts, but the college's deficit could have swelled by more than $4 million if the Legislature approved the governor's proposals.

The state budget contained several college assumptions that were included in the final state budget, which Nakasone said was the good news.

College officials are considering suspending a planned request for a $25-million loan, which would have covered salaries and operations through early next year, while creating additional interest payments, Nakasone said.

Glendale Unified officials estimate a $7-million revenue boost this year, Supt. Dick Sheehan said. The state budget preserved federal stimulus money, which erased employee furlough days this school year, he said.

In Burbank Unified, the $4 million in additional revenue was not enough to offset a $7-million structural deficit, but Supt. Stan Carrizosa said school board members could withdraw furlough days during their meeting on Thursday.

"They are moving as fast as they can," he said. "The state budget is going to reduce our red ink, and everybody likes that, but it's not going to do anything to restore our existing cuts."

Both districts have adopted spending priorities that aim to limit layoffs. Local school officials said they are most worried about January, when a new governor could propose midyear cuts that would create aftershocks throughout the public sector.

"[It's] our biggest concern," Sheehan said. "Our hope is this money will be used to stabilize the near future because we're still anticipating, [and] the state is still anticipating, two more years of being $20 billion in the red.

"We're not close to being out of the woods yet."

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