Burbank Unified, teachers union reach deal on furloughs

In a move designed to save Burbank Unified about $1.8 million, teachers union leaders have agreed to a new contract that maintains class sizes, but that also includes six unpaid furlough days, officials said.

The deal, which extends through June 30, 2013, is scheduled to go before Burbank Teachers Assn. members for a vote on Nov. 28 after school board members ratified it last week.

“It is not what either side wanted, per se, but we think it is a good compromise,” Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services Christine Statton said. “I think the compromise was made in the spirit of the continued hope that the state budget crisis will continue to improve and the district’s finances will improve.”

Two furlough days scheduled for the current school year will take place on Dec. 16 and April 9. Two of four furlough days agreed upon for the 2012-13 school year are scheduled for Dec. 21, 2012 and May 1, 2013, with the other two to take place on unspecified non-instructional staff development days.

With each teacher furlough day worth $307,500, the district will be saving about $1.84 million in personnel costs under the new contract, Statton said. However, some of those savings will be offset by an automatic increase in some teacher salaries based on seniority, known as step and column increases, she added.

The agreement includes a little give on both sides, union President Lori Adams said, adding that her priority was to ensure that none of the cuts were permanent.

“There are furlough days, so there will be no work for no pay,” Adams said. “It is a mix of instructional and non-instructional days, so it won’t be all planning time that will be taken away, so that is a good thing for us.”

According to the terms of the new contract, the district-wide student-to-teacher ratio will remain at the current level of 31-to-1 through the 2012-13 school year, and then automatically return to 30.5-to-1.

District officials did agree to not issue layoff notices as a budget-balancing action during the 2012-13 school year, building on a previous commitment to not issue pink slips during the current year.

The parties were locked in negotiations for months, trying to hammer out a contract to replace one that expired in June 2010.

Union leaders said that they would only agree to conditional furlough days if state revenue numbers trigger additional funding cuts to education. They also pushed for district officials to tap reserves to avoid cuts to programming and staffing.

Burbank Unified Supt. Stan Carrizosa and some members of the school board have maintained that the district’s current rate of deficit spending — about $4 million dollars a year — is not sustainable, and that they have to cut costs or risk becoming financially insolvent.

With mid-year cuts to state education funding expected, the district needs to implement furlough days to reduce personnel expenses, which make up 86% of its budget, school board President Ted Bunch said.

“Cutting salaries is a difficult thing,” Bunch said. “We wouldn’t have done it if we didn’t feel it was necessary. We would be broke three years out if we didn’t take these steps.”

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