Adding to the Burbank Unified School District’s budget woes, schools need more than $1 billion in updates and investments, according to a recent report on districtwide facilities. The latest development in the funding shortfalls highlights the necessity for a local bond, said district staff.
The report showed that, while Burbank schools have been well-maintained, about three-fourths of buildings within the district are more than 60 years old.
Officials from Perkins Eastman, the consulting group hired by the district to conduct the facilities master plan that was presented Jan. 16, told the School Board last week that investments in school sites made a generation ago are reaching the end of their usable life and must be replaced to ensure the sites remain in good condition.
The facilities report reiterated that student enrollment could shrink by as much as 25%, reducing state funding and necessitating $4.6 million in budget cuts in the next year. Last week’s facilities report revealed that an additional $1 billion would need to be made over the next decade in order to maintain school sites.
“The age of facilities is over 100 years old, so ongoing you’re always improving, you’re always tapping into state funding, but that can only go so far when we don’t have state funding for deferred maintenance. There’s only really one way to do that and it’s with a local bond,” said Kimberly Coffeen, Perkins Eastman principal.
Of the $1.13 billion in site needs identified in the facilities master plan, interior modernization, HVAC, and routine improvements and maintenance were of the highest priority.
Falling birth rates and housing shortages were cited as the primary reason for declining enrollment. Enrollment is the key metric that decides state funding for the district.
By 2031, Coffeen estimated that student enrollment could drop to as low as 11,627 students in Burbank Unified, compared to 2017 highs of 15,437.
State bonds will be on November ballots and, if approved, would provide as much as $14 billion in funding to school districts throughout California. Coffeen encouraged local leaders to also enact a local bond to levy taxes for the purpose of school funding.
“As we talk about needs throughout this district, I just want to [express the] caveat that we still have needs that far outpace our funding,” said Andrew Cantwell, assistant superintendent of administrative services.
Perkins Eastman also conducted a sizable community survey, which informed the facilities master plan. Of 510 teachers, students, parents, administrators and staff surveyed, safety and well-being were among the most prioritized issues for the BUSD community.
Aging school sites brought up questions from the public regarding site safety, and district staff pointed out that new facilities would allow for controlled entry to a school site, while creating opportunities for modernized sites like science labs, music rooms, care centers and professional development centers.
First published in the January 27 print issue of the Burbank Leader.