GUSD meeting includes honors and budget talk

By Brandon HENSLEY

The GUSD board meeting on Tuesday featured an awards presentation to some standout educators, then attention was turned to the job status of those teachers.

The ongoing issue of layoffs within the district was again talked about, as parents and children from several elementary schools were allowed to speak in favor of rescinding the pink slips.

Around 105 teachers have been handed RIF notices (ReductionIn Force) due to budget concerns. The district was facing a $50 million deficit in 2013, but that has since changed to around $32 million.

Officials said that number can shift again, depending on what changes come from the state budget. Elementary class sizes will be increased as a result. Tami Carlson, president of the Glendale Teachers Association, spoke in front of the board, and blamed the district’s inconsistencies in its budget projections.

Carlson said the budget is always projected to be over than what it really is, which means when the district hedges – in this case, makes layoffs – it could be making rash decisions. Carlson said the district has other supplies of money elsewhere

“Be forthcoming,” she said. “Tell these parents and the community that the budget you claim to spend 90% on salaries and benefits is only one of the budgets this district has. There is an entirely different budget: the restricted one, which has additional millions of dollars, some of which can be transferred to the general fund, that have not been.”

To the district, Carlson blamed the problems on the “ridiculously conservative computations that the County requires you to use.” Carlson said other districts, including LAUSD, Simi Valley and Las Virgenes, have taken back most of their RIFs even when its teachers have made less concessions than that of Glendale teachers.

“Truly celebrate teachers today. Rescind the RIFs.” Carlson said. The district said layoffs will be finalized by May 14.

In response, Eva Luek, chief business and financial officer for the district of Glendale, said the additional reserves that Carlson is speaking of are for special education, restricted maintenance, and early retirement health benefits. Those funds, she said, are losing money at a rate a $3 million a year. Luek says those reserves will be totally exhausted by 2014.

“Those reserves are gone, and we will need to look at additional cuts,” Luek said.

The district spends $27 million a year on health coverage, and Luek said that can increase. “We put into our budget a

$2.7 million increase that we thought we be appropriate,” she said. “We’re now looking at an additional $2 million on top of that. Now, that will be mitigated somewhat, if the contracts are ratified with GTA as we go through and we have the opportunity to look at plan design changes. But it is a significant concern. And it will change our target.”

Before that, the mood was a bit lighter as over 60 school district employees were recognized with the annual Masonic Awards, presented by members of Glendale and La Crescenta Masonic Lodges. The Masons of California annually recognize public school employees.