School district, union lock horns

Glendale teachers union representatives have locked horns with district officials as they seek to avoid seven scheduled unpaid furlough days.

The furlough days were included in an August 2010 agreement reached between the district and the Glendale Teachers Assn. in the face of deep state funding cuts. After a bitter battle, both sides ultimately agreed on a total of nine unpaid furlough days spread out over three consecutive school years.

Soon after the deal was reached, the district received additional funds from a federal jobs bill and the first two furlough days scheduled for the 2010-11 year were eliminated. But three furlough days in the current 2011-12 school year — scheduled to begin next spring — and four in the subsequent year remain intact pending some sort of agreement between the parties.

At the Glendale Unified school board meeting last week, union President Tami Carlson noted that the district finished the 2010-11 year with a balance of $48.5 million, about $23.5 million more than what had been projected. The money is more than enough to buy back all seven furlough days, she argued.

“We are not the ‘Bank of GUSD,’” Carlson said. “Bank of America is down the street there. We could buy back all those furlough days and we will be in great shape.”

After hitting a wall Wednesday, the parties are scheduled to continue negotiations on the issue on Oct. 19.

The union is willing to restore the furlough days if the economic climate sours and the district is hit with mid-year cuts, Carlson said.

But instead of eliminating the scheduled furloughs days altogether, district officials are proposing to defer them, contending they might be needed in the case of future budget contractions.

David Samuelson, assistant superintendent of human resources for the district, said that those furlough days would hopefully be eliminated if the revenue picture turned out to be better than expected.

The district’s chief business and financial officer, Eva Lueck, warned that the district’s ending fund balance is deceiving.

Glendale Unified has implemented drastic cost-saving measures, including reductions in staffing, changes in health insurance and worker compensation programs and energy conservation, she said. And the district has been heavily dependent on one-time federal dollars, she added.

Officials say they must assume those federal dollars won’t return.

“The challenge is we have used almost $74 million in one-time monies and those are running out,” Lueck said. “We are going to have a problem as the years roll on, in the very, very near future.”

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