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Teachers Broker Additional Raises Amid Accounting Errors

Following an accounting error that left the Burbank Unified School District with an additional $11 million in reserve funds, the Burbank Teachers Association successfully negotiated a 7% salary increase in addition to a one-time 1% raise retroactive to the beginning of the year.

Teachers picketed ahead of several School Board meetings earlier this year in protest of contract negotiations that had dragged on since September.

Earlier this month at a June 15 meeting, the Board of Education approved a contract with teachers that included a 7% on-going increase. Recent negotiations will add an additional 1% on-schedule salary increase retroactive to Jan. 1. The new collective bargaining agreement will be in place through 2025.

During the meeting, the district addressed the $11 million that was mistakenly not counted in this year’s budget balance, $8.7 million of which was intended for raises and vacation pay for district staff. When the additional funds are accounted for, the budget balance increases from $25 million to $36 million, a positive increase in reserves, and a big change in circumstances when it comes to contract negotiations.

“Despite the recent turbulence regarding an accounting error made by the district, I am pleased to share that our teachers are receiving the largest negotiated compensation increase Burbank Unified has seen in a generation,” acting Superintendent John Paramo said in a statement to the Leader.

During the June 15 meeting, School Board President Steve Ferguson addressed the accounting error and how it affected salary negotiations with teachers.

“As part of our discussion with the BTA about our accounting error, we did discuss additional dollars that are able to be bargained, and we asked if we should move forward with this contract and get people paid for what has already been negotiated, or if we should hold off until it has all been negotiated together,” he said.

Ferguson explained that the Board received feedback from BTA leadership that they preferred to adopt the 7% increase, opting to meet at a later date to discuss additional compensation given the new availability of funds.

“It is exciting to get people paid. That is the truth, but there’s still more work to do,” added Ferguson.

In the weeks since the School Board meeting, the district’s labor negotiators met with representatives from the BTA to discuss additional terms given the newly discovered budget excess. As a result, the BTA announced Thursday that they successfully negotiated an additional 1% salary increase retroactive to the start of the year and a two-year guarantee for elementary physical education teachers.

Following the discovery that an accounting error left an additional $11 million in budget reserves, BUSD and the Burbank Teachers Association negotiated an additional one-time 1% bonus for Burbank teachers.

In an email to stakeholders, the BTA said that this additional increase “improves upon and replaces the one 1% one-time off-schedule bonus we would have received due to BUSD’s higher-than-expected ending balance.”

“This agreement is unequivocally good and improves upon the gains we made earlier this year,” the email stated.

The salary for a mid-level career teacher — one with a bachelor’s degree and 45 credits of graduate-level education with 10 years of service in the district — is $80,402. In addition to the salary, the district will contribute up to $13,250 for health insurance premiums and is required by the state to contribute $15,357 toward the teacher’s pension. The all-in cost including unemployment, worker’s compensation, and other benefits for such a teacher is approximately $111,350, according to BUSD Assistant Superintendent Andrew Cantwell.

“The Board, administration and BTA share a priority to invest significantly in our staff to acknowledge their tireless efforts and the critical role they serve in giving all students the opportunity to achieve success. Further, it was necessary we create a combined compensation package and improvement to working conditions that would help us recruit and retain the highest quality educators,” Paramo said.

In addition to the 7% ongoing increase and the additional 1% salary bonus, BTA successfully brokered an increase of $1,000 to the district contribution to each employee’s health and welfare insurance premiums, and trigger-language that will result in a larger increase if certain fiscal health benchmarks occur for the district.

“Additionally, through this agreement, we are making investments in special education, teacher training and professional development, and increased collaboration time for teachers to ensure Burbank continues to be a regional educational leader and a highly desirable place for staff to invest their career,” Paramo said.

First published in the July 1 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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