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Leader Editorial: After-school programs are critical and expensive

June 14, 2013

Burbank city and school officials have found themselves this month with the unenviable tasks of determining how far they can stretch their respective budgets to help subsidize after-school activities for local children.

The BUSD, which in 2013-14 could face a $5.5-million structural deficit, has been toying with the idea of charging the Boys & Girls Club $88,500 in rent and maintenance costs during the coming school year to continue providing its after-school programs at Burbank campuses. This proposal did not go over well with the nonprofit, nor with many of its supporters and parents. The matter has been tabled for the time being, but will have to be revisited. Among other sacrifices forced by the school district's ongoing budget challenges, its employees have had to go without pay increases for five years.

Although that issue remains undecided, the after-school programs the city operates for about 600 children at various BUSD sites are safe — for the coming year, anyway. The City Council wrestled with that decision during budget discussions this week, when they learned those programs are in the hole to the tune of about $200,000 annually. After some discussion it was decided to continue the expenditure for one year.

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It is clear that very soon, certainly within the coming year, something is going to have to give. It may be that families who avail themselves of these various back-to-school programs — and who are not among those who are in serious financial straits — will have to be asked to do more to help shoulder the costs. It won't be an easy decision, to be sure, but the programs are critical and the school board, perhaps with a nudge from the council, may not have any other choice.

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