By Jason KUROSU
The Glendale Unified School District will continue operating at a deficit, according to a recent budget report from the district.
At the Sept. 15 board of education meeting, GUSD Chief Business & Financial Officer Robert McEntire presented the district’s numbers for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years, showing that state-mandated costs have the district spending more than it is receiving through state funding.
According to the report, last year the district operated at a structural deficit of $7.36 million and this year projects a $6.65 million deficit.
Mandated increases to retirement fund CalSTRS and CalPERS contributions were among the major factors McEntire said were restricting school districts’ abilities to close the district’s ongoing funding gap.
Additional factors McEntire said would affect the budget include the expiration of the Proposition 30 sales tax, which increased the statewide sales tax from 7.25% to 7.5% for education funding. Approved in 2012, the tax is set to expire at the end of 2016.
According to McEntire, Proposition 30 taxes represent “almost $8 billion worth of the state’s $100 billion revenues.”
McEntire said that another sales tax initiative could occur after 2016, though Gov. Jerry Brown did not necessarily support one.
The district could also stand to lose $1.6 million in funding because five GUSD schools went over the state-prescribed class size ratio of 24 students per teacher.
McEntire said that the district hired 19 more teachers this year “to ensure that all of our class sizes in transitional kindergarten to third grade are now below 24:1 district-wide.”
The budget discussion comes at a time when the district and teacher’s union are negotiating a salary raise for teachers, who claim that the district is receiving “unprecedented” funds, yet holding back at raising salaries.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Taline Arsenian, president of the Glendale Teacher’s Association, spoke on behalf of the teachers, two weeks after speaking at a board of education meeting attended by hundreds of GUSD teachers.
“Educators are struggling financially as inflation rises and our pay does not,” said Arsenian, who called the ongoing teacher negotiations “a looming cloud that resonates with all of us.”
The teacher’s union said that GUSD teachers have not received a pay increase in eight years, outside of a district-wide employee salary increase of 3% during the 2013-14 school year.
“The district has unprecedented increases to ongoing and one time funds,” Arsenian said. “The district has choices about how to budget their dollars. The district needs to choose teachers and educators.”
GUSD board president Christine Walters said, “We are absolutely hoping that we will have a fair settlement soon.”
McEntire’s budget presentation indicated that 89% of the district’s expenditures from the unrestricted general fund will go to employee salaries and benefits this year.
McEntire said that the 89% figure was “a number to be proud of.”
“If we were over 90%, we’re probably not providing a lot of the ancillary services. If we were below 80%, we would say we’re probably not right on our salary schedule. I’ve found universally that we’re in a pretty good place comparatively to other districts of similar size,” said McEntire.