District braces for more cuts

Glendale Unified officials are bracing for an additional $7.6 million year-over-year reduction in state funding, cuts that will result in a $16.4-million budget shortfall by the 2013-14 school year unless the district drastically reigns in spending.

The numbers were released as part of the school district's interim budget to the Los Angeles County Office of Education this month.

But Glendale Unified budget projections, like those at public school districts up and down the state, remain in flux as Gov.-elect Jerry Brown prepares to wade through a $28-billion state deficit. The sentiment among education officials is that the financial picture is likely to get worse.

"I think we are in for reductions we never dreamed of," said Eva Lueck, chief financial officer with Glendale Unified.

The $7.6 million in cuts, which breaks down to $300 less per student in state funding, is the latest blow in a two-year financial battering that has roiled California's public education institutions. By law, 40% of the state's budget must be spent on education, making the line item a big target during financial negotiations.

"I hope that it is no more than what we are hearing," Glendale Unified school board member Mary Boger said. "I hope it is no more than $300 per [student]. But I also hope that whatever it is, they just do it and get it over with so we can deal with the reality of the situation rather than having to constantly guess at what is coming next."

Spending reductions within Glendale Unified have largely consisted of staffing cuts, including the elimination of secretarial, special education and maintenance positions, Lueck said. And because personnel expenses account for about 90% of the budget, staffing will probably be reduced again.

One option is to increase the teacher-student ratio for kindergarten through third-grade from the current level of 25-to-1 up to 30-to1, Lueck said.

But increasing class sizes at the primary level would be done only as a last resort, Supt. Dick Sheehan said, adding that the district is committed to protecting teacher jobs and instructional programming.

Planning the financial future of the district using fluctuating numbers has been difficult, Lueck said. The district has to take into account all the different scenarios, and have several plans in motion at once.

"It is so challenging because all of our budgets are basically people, so when we are looking at numbers changing we are looking at people's lives," Lueck said. "They change so dramatically; it is very difficult to maintain credibility."

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