City Council Candidate Question #7 – Burbank Schools

By On September 30, 2020

Editor’s Note: myBurbank sent eight questions out to the eight different candidates running for Burbank City Council. myBurbank will run a different question each day for eight days (except for weekends). We have in no way edited any of the responses that we have received and have come directly from the candidates. We gave them no limits to the amount of space they wanted to use for their answers and have rotated the order of the candidates each day so no one has an advantage. After reading these questions and answers, myBurbank hopes that the voters of Burbank will have an informed opinion before casting their votes. Remember, you can vote for two candidates and every vote is valuable!

Question 7 of 8:

Presently the Burbank Unified School District is going through very tough budget times with the recent Ballot Measure failing. Do you feel the City should step in an help the school district? What do you feel can be done to help?

Candidate Responses:

Tamala Takahashi:

BUSD is indeed going through a very difficult budgetary challenge at this time. So is the city of Burbank. Before COVID, the city was just starting to come out of its budget deficit from pension repayments. But now that revenue is down significantly, the city is facing at least a $20 Million deficit. So, both BUSD and the city of Burbank will be facing their budget challenges together. 

This is why, now more than ever, continued and growing partnerships between the city and the school district, non-profits and local businesses is absolutely crucial. These partnerships already exist in many ways – the library supports the district with online resources and tutoring, Parks and Recreation and the district have partnered with shared sports fields, the parks and rec also provides after school care as well as the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club. And during COVID, they have been great partners. The city support of these non profits is an indirect, yet important way to help the schools. 

As we move forward through COVID, both the city and the school district will be looking at ways to bring funding back into the budget, but it will likely be a long road. Managing through the financial challenges will require adaptability, innovation, and collaboration. While we are recovering economically, it will be important to lean into these relationships and broaden our partnerships, as the city, schools, non profits, and business are all looking for funding opportunities as they become available during COVID recovery. 

This all said, and while I believe strongly in partnerships, I respect the boundaries of the two governing bodies, and hold a continued high level of respect for those who serve on the school board and the district staff in all the work they do. 

Michael Lee Gogin:

The city already helps the school district with reduced Power Rates, Fire and Police Services and SRO Officers when the city can afford it. The School District is a separate elected body that has lost its way In terms of the residence supporting their financial activities. 

What I see is that the School District is holding their hand out for money but are not correcting the reasons the residents are not supporting them. For example, Residence did not support the School Bond and the Teachers Association and school board members should find out the reasons why. 

Paul Herman:

With two kids in BUSD schools I am well aware of the budgetary constraints the School District is grappling with right now.  When I am elected to Council, I intend to help promote a better partnership between our Council and our School District.  I have called for regularly scheduled joint meetings between the City Council and the School Board to create better lines of communication and support.  I know the City does provide financial support to the District to the tune of about $3.5M per year, but I feel more can be done.  I really think the best way to generate more funding for BUSD, however, is to pursue another parcel tax by endeavoring to create more broad-based community support.             

Nick Schultz:

While I firmly believe that our children are the future and that we cannot allow our public schools to fail, I also recognize that there is an independently elected school board that is responsible for running the Burbank Unified School District (BUSD). I believe that city council can and must work more closely with the school board to enact cost-saving measures and to engage some of our largest corporate citizens (e.g., Disney and Warner Brothers) to develop educational partnerships that could be of tremendous benefit to our students. 

Recently, I sat down with a current member of the BUSD school board to discuss what role the city could play in helping BUSD to navigate this financial crisis. One idea that I’d like to further explore is the possibility of taking over financial responsibility for mental health services, and possibly other ancillary programs/services, that could allow the school board to prioritize their budgetary decision-making on retaining high quality teachers and staff, investing in classroom technology, and keeping our class sizes as low as possible.

Simply put, I fundamentally believe that our city council can and must do more to ensure that Burbank public schools remain exceptional. We owe it to our students, parents, and teachers.

Sharis Manokian:

If elected, I would like to have more open discussions with the Board of Education to discuss their needs and how the City can support our schools. As someone who has worked with our students, I’ve seen first-hand the effect our policies have on our youth. The children are our future, and the City should do everything they can to ensure their needs are met.

With that being said, I’m open to exploring any and all ideas for increasing education funding. Without increasing taxes, we could direct a larger portion of property taxes towards public education. We could monetize our campuses by renting out spaces to outside organizations or selling advertising space on Memorial Field. Our public school system is strong, and together we can make it even stronger.

Tim Murphy:

Yes. I always want to help the schools. I have three boys and a daughter who all went through Burbank schools. I have helped in the past.  We have an independent school board whose members are very talented.  Armond, Steve and Roberta (all up for re-election) are smart and very committed to our children, as are Mr. Fritner and Ms. Tabet. We have a strong open-ended relationship with the Board.  Superintendent Matt Hill has great skills and is an excellent leader. There is not a lot that we can legally do. We already give the schools breaks on power supply, crossing guards, and SROs, all at our expense.  The City pays for the libraries and allows students to use their student ID to check out books. We also let the kids use computers, WiFi and the high-tech center (SPARKS). I am sure that there is more we can do but the City can’t just give them money or allow the School District to draw from our general fund. That would be illegal. The parcel tax was on the ballot twice and did not pass either time. I worked for it and endorsed it both times. Burbank does not get a fair share of the CA lottery funds. The state has totally failed our schools and our kids. I think a non-political meeting between City staff and the school board Staff may be the key in finding some additional areas to work together and help them save money. I think it has to be something like a high-level meeting without politics.

Linda Bessin:

There have been many contradictory statements about what the City can and can’t do in these circumstances for the School District. I spoke with a current member of the School Board to get clarification. I learned that the City cannot give part of its budget to BUSD. But the City can support Proposition 15 which will bring much needed funding to our schools. It can support programs that are mutually beneficial, such as how students can use their school ID’s as library cards for the City’s libraries. There are so many overlapping areas that the City and the School district can work on together. The strength of Burbank is seen in the strength of our schools. Most of our community realizes this fact. We must have a cohesive and compatible relationship between our City Council and BUSD that results in a successful and thriving community. The failure to do otherwise will result in what we see today.

Konstantine Anthony:

This year, the Burbank Unified School District cut $3.8 million from their budget due to a lack of funding caused by a combination of factors: an outdated state funding formula, unfunded pension liability, and the failure of two recent attempts to pass a parcel tax measure. Similar cities in the county are suffering the same fate yet have found ways to fund the shortfalls.

Pasadena, a city similar in size and demographics to Burbank, recently passed a sales tax measure and an ordinance that dedicates 30% of that revenue to the city’s school district. That same year, Burbank passed its own sales tax increase, yet has not planned to transfer any of that revenue to our struggling school district. We need actionable solutions now to address the needs of our students and teachers. I will push for a one-time transfer of at least $4 million to immediately shore up the school district’s budget. I will also work with my other council members to pass one or more of the following: a progressive parcel tax exempting small businesses and modest-sized homes, a vacancy tax on residential and commercial properties, and a 2% increase to our Transient Occupancy Tax.

I also publicly endorse Prop 15 (Schools and Communities First), in the hopes that it will fully fund the budgetary needs of our school district.