Glendale Unified's budget shortfalls are ongoing

Having been put on notice by Los Angeles County education officials, Glendale Unified faces some “tough choices” in the months to come as it confronts a yawning budget deficit, Supt. Dick Sheehan warned recently.

Speaking to the board of education at a recent meeting, Sheehan said the Glendale Unified's expenditures are exceeding income by $15 million each year, putting the district on pace to fall short by $36.4 million for the 2015-16 school year.

That means officials will “have to make some tough choices going forward,” he said.

Some cuts in staffing, contracts and changes in healthcare plans saved $987,000 this year.

The district let go of its public information officer, energy conservation manager and two assistant principals to save a combined $487,000. Contracts cut from the budget saved another $374,000.

Over the next few years, however, district controller Mike Lee said the district could use up to $29 million in reserves to stay solvent. The district used $9 million in reserve accounts to remain solvent in 2011-12.

Officials foresee deeper cuts in 2013, when the district plans to lay off teachers and increase class sizes in an effort to save $6.8 million.

In grades kindergarten through third alone, there would be an average 30 students per teacher instead of 24 students to save $3.8 million.

The district is also looking to add two more students per class on average in grades six through eight to save $1.9 million.

When taken together, the budget and other cuts would help reduce the projected $36-million deficit in 2015-16 to $15.3 million. But the number of layoffs depends on how many teachers with greater seniority choose to retire by this spring.

“We still have a ways to go and we'll continue to evaluate staffing positions as people retire,” Lee said.

Adding to the uncertainty are a number of X-factors that could impact Glendale Unified's budget.

In January, Gov. Jerry Brown is set to release the state budget proposal, which may offer school districts 2% more in revenue to account for a higher cost of living.

Also unknown is how many students will enroll next fall. The figure could alter the district's projected budget significantly since the state funding formula doles out $5,222 to school districts for each student served.

“I think it's important before everyone gets too worked up about the numbers we're presenting, that they're going to change again the next time we talk about this,” said school board President Christine Walters. “I just want to help people understand, nothing is set in stone until it's actually done.”


Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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