HomeSchools & YouthDozens of BUSD Staff Cut Amid Budget Crisis

Dozens of BUSD Staff Cut Amid Budget Crisis

The Burbank Unified School District this week said it is planning to cut dozens of jobs over the next three years as Gov. Gavin Newsom declares a state of fiscal emergency over California’s evolving budget crisis, which experts warn will result in billions slashed from education funding.

BUSD has projected the elimination of 79 positions over the three-year period, though only this summer’s layoffs are set in stone, BUSD’s Board of Education discussed in two meetings this week.

Initially, projected staffing cuts were much smaller — just 12 classroom teaching positions and classified staff for fiscal year 2024-25.

That changed when the Los Angeles County superintendent called BUSD Superintendent John Paramo, telling him the district would need to double down on efforts to curb spending.

“Given what was happening at the state level, they were concerned that we were going to be facing some very significant financial challenges,” Assistant Superintendent Andrew Cantwell told the Leader Friday.

Specifically, BUSD is projected to dip below 3% of its ending general fund balance in total reserves, which would violate state requirements. Additionally, new funding cuts from Sacramento mean the district will need to spend even less in coming years.

California is in the red for nearly $80 billion as state analysts project massive deficit spending for the coming fiscal year. Education accounts for 40% of California’s general fund spending, and lawmakers are planning significant cuts from K-12 education to claw back losses.

“While we do still have strong reserves overall, if we didn’t take further proactive measures now, then in the future we’d be very constrained and the county superintendent’s office was concerned about our fiscal health,” Cantwell said.

Current funding isn’t enough to cover the district’s costs, the largest being salaries, Paramo said. Locally, declining birth rates, aging facilities and soaring housing costs are partially at fault for sinking district revenues, exasperated by a growing state budget deficit.

Of the state education funding cuts, the most significant reductions come from the cost-of-living adjustment, a percentage of the base funding for a district that is higher depending on the cost of living.

The state has identified a COLA of 1.07% for the upcoming year 2024-25, a significant drop in funding relative to the 3.94% COLA currently applied.

“The district needed to be in a better place to handle COLA reductions in the amount of up to an additional $1.7 million in cuts,” said Paramo in a Tuesday meeting.

That means district leaders will need to slash more than double the initial estimates in staffing. Over three years, BUSD anticipates it will lay off 53.6 classroom teachers, two principals, 5.5 assistant principals, five physical education teachers, five full-time counselors, five independent learning academy staff members, and three Monterey High School staff members.

In declaring a budget emergency, Newsom can direct state resources to fend off the deficit. It also allows BUSD to make a second round of layoffs, and though the deadline for those cuts were extended to August, the district notified employees this month that they would be let go.

“I really believe that it’s important. While we have difficult decisions, we need to make sure we honor the individuals affected by giving them what little time we can,” Cantwell said.

To make matters more difficult, an influx of English learners means that the district will have to set aside additional resources for second-language programs.

“The shortfall was about $1.2 million dollars, but what we are actually cutting is $2.4 million. We have an increase in our new immigrant students,” Paramo said. “There is a larger influx in students coming from Ukraine and Russia.”

The district will be operating at a deficit over the next two years, with expenses exceeding revenue by about $10 million per year.

“We wanted to be in a better position, particularly when we have the county asking us to cut $1.4 million more than what we originally planned,” Paramo said, explaining why BUSD is making larger cuts than potentially necessary in an effort to reduce its projected general fund deficit. 

The issue is far from over, staff said. Further cuts to staff will likely take place next year if the state’s budget outlook does not improve, district staff said.

“That means that we are going to have to do this process again next year. We are going to have to reduce this budget by another $850,000 next year,” Paramo said Tuesday. “This year has been painful to go through, but we aren’t over the hill.”

First published in the May 18 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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