School board passes tentative budget

The Glendale Unified school board — still uncertain over how state funding will impact local schools — approved a “placeholder” budget for 2013-14 on Tuesday that eventually could include a pay raise for employees who have gone without now for seven years.

With increased funding anticipated from the state, Glendale Unified will likely see $7.8 million more in revenue for the coming school year, including a 1.08% cost of living increase.

At least two school board members indicated they would be open to allowing some of that money to trickle down to employees.

“I would like us to incorporate some type of bump or salary increase... and I think the rest of my colleagues are leaning toward that because it's been a long drought,” school board member Greg Krikorian said.

Since 2007, Glendale Unified has withstood more than $30 million in cuts in part by reducing employees, avoiding pay raises and instituting unpaid furlough days.

“The board has really been diligent and proactive in making reductions to weather the economic downturn over the last six years,” Glendale Unified Controller Mike Lee said.

But the district still faces a $9-million structural deficit going into the next school year, and the tentative budget presented Tuesday night suggested not replacing 25 full-time elementary teachers who have retired, saving about $2.4 million.

And there is still uncertainty surrounding how the state education funding formula will ultimately play out.

“There are enough unknowns within the [state] budget that we believe it could swing a million dollars to the good or a million dollars to the bad,” said Supt. Dick Sheehan.

Even so, school districts are required by law to approve their own budgets by July 1, which means they are often amended after the state's own spending plan is set in stone.

Sheehan said Glendale Unified officials would discuss various budget scenarios in July, including not filling 25 elementary teaching positions.

“One will include cutting all 25. One will include bringing some back… and what it would look like if we brought everybody back,” he told the board. “Ultimately, you five will decide the direction we go.”

School board member Armina Gharpetian and President Nayiri Nahabedian voted against the budget draft, citing the potential teacher reductions.

“I think we can take that risk and prevent any classroom size increase,” Gharpetian said. “That's my priority.”

Referring to increased class sizes, Nahabedian asked, “What's the cost in terms of how it might affect the learning of the students?”

School board members Mary Boger, Christine Walters and Krikorian voted in favor, pointing out that the state budget uncertainty didn't allow Glendale Unified to make solid plans just yet.

“I'm not voting on class sizes tonight,” Walters said. “What I'm voting on is a required legal document that's going to get us to the next step... This to me is a hoop that we're jumping through.”


Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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