District, union still at odds over money

GLENDALE — Despite a $13.7-million boost from the state budget and federal stimulus spending, Glendale school board members are bracing for state cuts to their $141.7-million spending plan this academic year.

Glendale Unified officials said any revenue boost may not survive after a new governor takes office in January.

"At the end of the day, they are leaving us crumbs to educate our children," school board President Greg Krikorian said. "And we end up fighting over these crumbs with our unions and community."

Glendale Teachers Assn. President Tami Carlson said the additional federal dollars change the district financial picture for the better, but district officials disagreed. They said the new revenue became available after the board approved its budget, as required by state law.

"It's better, but it's not solved yet," school board member Christine Walters said.

But projections are unreliable, and the three-year budget law is usually to blame for financial fears, Carlson said.

"Last year at this time, they were saying in the three-year budget cycle, we would be broke," she said. "This happens every time they bring a budget out."

Board members approved a budget adjustment Tuesday that reflected the improved financial landscape since the board approved a three-year budget in June. State law requires school districts to project balanced budgets every year for three consecutive years.

"This would be the first opportunity to include this in our budget," Chief Financial Officer Eva Lueck said. "This did not exist in June, when we did our adoption."

Glendale Unified projects a more than $20-million deficit by July 2014. But that could be worse come January, when a new governor copes with a budget that rests on "smoke and mirrors," said Mary Boger, a Glendale school board member and vice president of the California School Boards Assn.

"All last year I felt we were on the first phase of the rollercoaster," Boger said. "Now we're at the top of that first hill, I think, and all I see ahead of us is a great big drop. I can't imagine how we can escape midyear cuts this year."

Glendale Unified Supt. Dick Sheehan said the state budget would be $10 billion upside-down by January. And Lueck, who reviewed the state budget's optimistic assumptions, funding suspensions and deferrals and program funding vetoes, said an election next month could create another year of economic uncertainty.

"As far as concerns, there are several," Lueck said.

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