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Schools bank on federal boost

Aid package could mean fewer proposed layoffs or a reduced deficit.

August 11, 2010|By Max Zimbert,

WEST BURBANK — Federal aid to states is expected to provide Burbank Unified with about $2 million, which officials said could offset employee furlough days or ease the deficit.

Burbank Unified officials said it was too soon to know whether California would be eligible to get its share, but if it did, Supt. Stan Carrizosa said the money could help offset a roughly $7-million difference between district expenses and revenues this year — a gap that's being plugged with reserves.

"It might mean we propose fewer layoffs or make fewer cuts in the future — I think that would be a good thing," he said. "We want to put it in operational costs now so it'll help us reduce our deficit."


Leading Democrats who supported the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act said it's designed to prevent layoffs, rehire laid-off staff or rescind employee furlough days. Republican critics said the bill was an election-year giveaway to teachers unions and government employees.

Teachers are scheduled to spend their second furlough day today picnicking at McCambridge Park. Formal union meetings are uncommon during the summer, but Jerry Mullady, president of the Burbank Teachers Assn., said he expects teachers to pressure the Board of Education to rescind three furlough days scheduled for the spring semester.

"There's no formal organizing plan at the moment, but restoration of cuts has always been one of our goals, as well as maintaining people and benefits," he said. "Restoring some of the furlough days would fit into that goal."

But the district budget has little wiggle room, officials said.

In June, the district approved a solvent three-year budget that relies on dwindling reserves to cover a gap between expenses and revenues, said Interim Deputy Supt. Lori Ordway-Peck.

"The budget isn't truly balanced because revenues are not equal to expenditures, so we are using our reserves to pay for the difference," she said. "If we bank that $2 million now, we will have less of a problem to solve as we consider the budget in 2011 [for 2014-15]."

Burbank teachers agreed to take six furlough days this school year when they approved concessions in May that saved the district about $2.3 million.

The agreement was enough to nix 67 teacher pink slips, but it pitted teachers against their colleagues and took a toll on employee morale, Mullady said.

"Why aren't they using [new revenue] to restore salaries after the pay cut we took [in furlough days]?" he said. "With the furlough days now, you're getting money back for teachers' jobs. That's how it's been sold to the public. To me it needs to be used for that purpose."

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