What’s the holdup?
Relations between Ramona school district and Ramona Teachers Association, the union that represents 265 teachers, need to thaw.
On Nov. 6, Ramona voters will decide the fate of Proposition R, one point on which the union and the district agree. The union is so supportive of Prop. R it gave the campaign committee a check for $1,000 at the Oct. 18 school board meeting.
The next day, the district declared an impasse in negotiations with the teachers union. Why? Only those privy to what goes on during negotiation sessions know. All the public knows is two sets of adults who say “it’s all about the children” don’t agree.
At the same time the community’s five elected school trustees, district management, and county Office of Education say Ramona’s district is economically in a critical spot—so critical that the state may take it over—RTA repeatedly says it doesn’t trust the district’s budget numbers because the numbers keep changing. Projected ending balances don’t match actual ending balances, they say.
The union last year refused to take the three unpaid furlough days all other school employees took. Teachers didn’t have to take those furlough days because there was going to be money in the budget at the end of the fiscal year, union representatives said. Trustees agreed, but said that money was going to provide a financial cushion for the 2012-13 school year, which the county office projected would be worse, particularly if a proposed state tax on the Nov. 6 ballot fails.
The district, directed by the county office of Education to budget as if no tax initiative will pass, projects an ending negative balance on June 30, 2013 of $850,160. Will that be the ending balance? No, of course not. It’s a projection and doesn’t include concessions other district employees have taken. An update is expected at the trustees’ December meeting.
For the past 12 years, Ramona’s had declining student enrollment, meaning fewer dollars for the district. Add to that an economy in crisis, a dysfunctional state government, several years of school district deficit spending, and a school board apparently reluctant to push hard for employee concessions.
When it comes to health insurance, Ramona teachers have had a sweet deal for. The public pays 100 percent of the health premiums for those who participate in the program. Those waiving the coverage receive $1,500 annually. Employees in the overwhelming number of other districts in the county pay a portion of their health premium. It’s time Ramona joins them. Without a drastic upswing in the economy, Ramona can’t afford it.
California School Employees Association’s Ramona chapter, the union representing the district’s support staff, last month agreed to a 9.5% cut this year and a 12% cut the next two years. District managers earlier agreed to a concession of 10.53% toward benefits this budget year and 12% for the next two years.
Three years ago, 85 percent of the district’s budget went to employee salaries and benefits. This year it’s 90 percent. What suffered? Supplies, maintenance, and other items that in the state’s language was “flexed” from specific budget categories into the general fund.
As the district and its employees ask this community for more money on Nov. 6, the teachers union continues to question the district’s budget numbers. Ramona Teachers Association, if you don’t trust the district’s accounting, how can you expect voters to believe the district needs more money?
- Tough Times, Tough Decisions
- School district to start negotiations for 2012-13
- School district OKs $49.6M budget
- School board OKs 17 teacher layoffs
- District declares impasse in teacher talks
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