The mid-August meeting of the Long Beach Unified Board of Education was the last one before students come back to the classroom and was mostly about personnel moves for the upcoming school year. The meeting also featured what has become a constant at the Board’s monthly meetings: the District’s maintenance department voicing concerns of drastically reduced maintenance staff district-wide.
Last school year the district removed the district-wide maintenance supervisor. At a Board meeting during last school year Chett Davidson, locksmith maintenance and union rep, addressed the board to inform them that as the Measure E and Measure K money is being put into Facilities, the maintenance department is being left out of the process.
At this most recent meeting, Davidson told the board that some schools are being told to not put in requests for new carpeting or painting in order to reduce the number of open tickets for Maintenance, presumably, he said, to make the department look unnecessary. The reason for his repeatedly addressing the Board, he said, is to change the perception of the department and make sure that the Board, and everyone in the district, knows the maintenance department is full of hard-working and capable craftsmen.
Chris Eftychiou, Public Information Director for the District, denied that there was any directive from the school district to avoid submitting maintenance requests.
According to Davidson, there were 275 employees when he began working in the district 30 years ago, a number that’s been reduced to under 100 employees today.
“(The maintenance department) used to be preventative, now we just respond to emergencies,” he said.
Eftychiou said that the District has lost 24,000 students in the last 15 years but hasn’t had any net reduction in the maintenance department in the last 10 years, since the Great Recession layoffs.
“While many of those positions were never restored, the same holds true for positions in many other departments,” he said. Eftychiou also pointed out that the district has closed several schools due to declining enrollment, and that the CSEA, the union to which the LBUSD maintenance workers belong, ratified their most recent contract in April with 99% of the vote.
He also pointed out that the new construction across several campuses from Measure K and Measure requires outside contractors to complete because of their scope and temporary nature; Eftychiou said the district has hired more than 7,500 temporary workers to complete those projects.
“In that sense, we’re a significant job creation engine for the region,” he said.
Long-term financial stability
In June the Board reviewed and unanimously approved the nearly one-billion dollar 2018-19 District Budget. The district has spent years building up a financial cushion, culminating in this year’s $204.4m in reserve.
However, Long Beach has seen a consistent 2% decline in enrollment each year for the past decade and is projecting that decline to continue for the foreseeable future. This decline in enrollment is expected to result in declining revenue for the district while obligations like retirement funds will remain steady.
This is projected to result in significant reduction to the district’s savings, as they project to have $81.5m for the ’22-’23 school year (which is still well above the $19.2m they are required by state regulation to keep in reserve).