GUSD approves 'conditional' budget

The Glendale Unified school board this week approved a new conditional budget that is rife with unknowns, including questions about where funding levels for public education will land amid ongoing state budget negotiations in Sacramento.

“We are doing the best that we can under the circumstances of lack of information, and it is unfortunate that we are submitting a budget that is called ‘conditional,’” said school board member Nayiri Nahabedian.

According to the school district’s three-year projection — to be submitted later this month to the Los Angeles County Office of Education — Glendale Unified will remain fiscally solvent through 2012-13 before running more than $20 million in the red the following fiscal year.

Budget projections were based on the assumption that state funding would remain flat — about $5,200 per student — as outlined in Gov. Jerry Brown’s state budget revise in May, said Eva Lueck, chief business and financial officer for the district.

But the county Office of Education also required that districts budget for potential future cuts. That forces the district to assume a $24.9-million cut over the three-year period, Lueck added.

“That is huge, and that is going to push us into negative our third year out as we move forward, as it will every district, I believe, in L.A. County,” she said.

Despite the third-year deficit, Glendale Unified remains fairly well positioned compared to districts across the state. It will close out the 2010-11 fiscal year with at least $42 million in its General Fund, Lueck said.

Measure S — the $270-million school bond passed in April — will free up an additional $19 million. And a combination of cost-cutting measures and supplementary program money means further breathing room.

“What we are buying ourselves, with all of that money, is some time to make some thoughtful decisions,” said school board Vice President Christine Walters.

But some of what will sustain the district through the next year is one-time money, district officials said.

“Our costs are going up, we are experiencing cost-of-living increases daily and we are not getting that support from our legislators in Sacramento,” school board member Mary Boger said. “I absolutely believe that we need to be able to demonstrate that even though we have been really fiscally responsible and have squirreled away every dime that we could…it doesn’t change the fact that none of these numbers are changing in the long run. We are constantly in the red.”

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