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Staffing Cuts Keep Burbank School District Afloat — for Now

The Burbank Unified School District is set to approve its budget for the next fiscal year, implementing a number of deep cuts made by the Board of Education to staffing and other programs.

The district will take in $204.7 million in revenues this year, compared to $217.3 million in the last fiscal year. That’s a 6% decline in funding.

Layoffs over the next three years — about 79 in total — will compound over time and lead to a drastic reduction in expenditures. Despite those cuts, the district still anticipates years of over-spending. BUSD will rack up an $18 million deficit this year, but has enough reserves on hand to cover the difference for the next two years, according to Mariam Abdelhmid, director of fiscal services.

“The district had to make some tough personnel decisions, but after making several reductions for the 2024-25 budget, we are confident that our certification will be positive,” Abdelhmid said. This means that the district is confident it will be able to meet its financial obligations.

School districts throughout California are bracing for similar deficit challenges, as education funding from Sacramento plumets amid a state-wide budget crisis.

Earlier this year, district staff forecasted hard times, warning that its second quarter projections indicated there was a possibility BUSD would be unable to meet its financial obligations. After the Los Angeles County Office of Education expressed concerns, Superintendent John Paramo announced the district would have to double down on already painful staff and programming cuts.

“That’s what makes this conversation so difficult. We are talking about the reduction of counselors that we don’t want to do. The reduction of principles that we don’t want to do,” said Paramo at the June 6 meeting.

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 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,” Paramo said.

To make matters more difficult, an influx of English learners means that the district will have to set aside additional resources for English-as-a-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 [serving] our new immigrant students,” Paramo said.

Another reason money is tight is because enrollment is down across the district, and students also miss in-person class time.

Students attended schools for about 93% of the district’s 180 school days. Each day a student is absent, the district loses funding. That’s because each “butt in a seat” equates to a flat dollar amount, district staff told the Leader in a February interview. 

Compounded with declines in enrollment, which drives overall attendance numbers, the district’s revenue will continue to dip for the foreseeable future.

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

First published in the June 15 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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