GUSD Passes Budget With $20 Million Deficit

The Glendale Unified School District Board of Education on Tuesday adopted its budget for the 2020-21 school year “begrudgingly,” in the words of board member Greg Krikorian, who nevertheless had no other options given the state’s bleak financial situation.
The general fund portion of the budget is used to educate the district’s 26,000 students and includes a little over $289 million in revenues and more than $309 million in expenditures. The $20.3 million deficit is caused by the 10% cut to public education funding in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent May Revise budget proposal due to the COVID-19 health and financial crisis. The GUSD had until June 30 to submit a budget to the Los Angeles County Office of Education, or LACOE, a tenet that was satisfied by the unanimous vote.
As bad as it may appear, things could have been even direr.
Worst-case scenarios explained by Steve Dickinson, the district’s chief business and financial officer, projected deficits as high as $53 million for the upcoming school year. This week, however, the state legislature passed a budget bill that does not include any reductions to public education funding, but instead relies heavily on assumptions of California receiving billions of dollars in federal relief funds. Until the final state budget act is approved, GUSD and all school districts in the state will be planning for large budget reductions in the coming years.
Dickinson pointed out that he is possibly even more concerned over the stresses the upcoming school year will have on the district’s finances given the many unknown factors in education.
“We have to adopt our budget, and hopefully in a few weeks we will know the true facts,” said Dickinson. “Two weeks ago, we talked about some themes. We talked about flexibility, changing information, multiple scenarios, budget plans that can be adjusted and most definitely need to be staggered over several years, cash solvency, a communication plan and advocacy.”
Dickinson also mentioned the patience needed in such an uncertain financial climate.
“How do you walk a thousand miles?” he asked rhetorically. “You do it one step at a time. What you don’t want to do is panic and start sprinting. I fear that some districts are going to start sprinting.”
The GUSD is still facing the possibility of further substantial cuts in the 2021-22 school year.
Krikorian pointed out that several districts are considering more drastic reductions.
“Other districts are going to be closing some schools,” Krikorian said. “We aren’t even at that point in Glendale. We are strong. We are one of the strongest districts in the county, and we have been known for that.”
Dickinson has consistently pointed out that the GUSD entered the COVID-19 era with a 10% budget reserve.
“You were in a great position to ride out a normal rough road,” Dickinson said.
At any rate, that road has definitely changed.

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