Weathering fiscal storm

Emotions are running high at Ramona Unified, particularly after Monday night’s special board meeting that packed the high school’s Performing Arts Wing as speaker after speaker pleaded with trustees not to impose cuts that will take chunks out of teachers’ May and June paychecks.

It was clear that all spoke from their heart, including school trustees who believe that, without these cuts, the district will be unable to pay its bills and thus faces possibility of state takeover.

What’s next? No one knows. With talk of recall and strike, everyone involved is anxious, and many are angry.

We doubt anyone wants to see a teachers’ strike, just as we doubt that the trustees want to hurt teachers. Each has a child or children in Ramona schools. Does anyone truly believe that any of them want to hurt the quality of education here? They’re doing what they believe is best.

Lots of history preceded Monday’s vote. During the worst recession many of us have ever seen, Ramona trustees protected the teachers. While teachers in other districts took salary cuts, paid a portion of their health benefits, and had shorter school years to see those districts through the economic crisis, Ramona trustees chose various means — including cutting perhaps where they shouldn’t have — so teachers did not experience cuts in salary and benefits. Some even received step and column increases for additional education or reaching a longevity benchmark.

The deficit spending couldn’t continue, particularly with a $34 million debt from a previous board staring the district in the face. Teacher Grant McNiff refers to it as “the fiscal nightmare called COP (certificate of participation, aka loan), and he’s right.

It’s all in the fact-finding report available online on the district’s website,, and the teachers union website, Read it. It presents both sides clearly. A great deal of other information also is at those two sites.

There are no good guys and bad guys, just people doing their best to get through what is Ramona’s crisis. Because there was no settlement earlier in the school year, teachers will experience smaller paychecks for the next two months. In the next two years, cuts will be evenly distributed throughout the year.

The negotiations door apparently is always open. Prop. 30 may provide a bigger windfall than anticipated, enrollment may start to climb after years of decline, and an upcoming community workshop tentatively set for May 11 may offer options and solutions to put the district on more firm fiscal ground. Let’s not cry uncle just yet. The Saturday workshop will be a community brainstorming session where selling district land, consolidating schools, putting another bond bid before voters, and refinancing the loan likely will be among ideas discussed.

One speaker Monday said a coalition of parents is forming. On another front, a group calling itself Friends of Ramona Unified Schools (FORUS) has started and plans to work on needed projects at the schools.

Fault finding and personal attacks don’t solve problems. Communities do.

Related posts:

  1. School district heads toward fiscal precipice, county warns
  2. What’s best for the district?
  3. Ramona school district braces for strike
  4. Join teachers in seeking fair settlement
  5. Ramona teachers endorse one-year contract settlement; district wants three-year agreement

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Posted by Maureen Robertson on Apr 23 2013. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

9 Comments for “Weathering fiscal storm”

  1. Ramona is….
    A) A drinking town with a horsey problem?
    B) A bunch of rednecks with trust issues?
    C) A small town that is the Heart of San Diego County?
    If "C" is what you believe Ramona could be or should be, here's our opportunity.
    It takes huevos to bury the hatchet.. Board/Administration and Teachers Union.. Its Not Too Late… Renegotiate!
    Feeling beaten down by this? Gather your frustrations and chanel them in a healthy altruistic way…. Look for more news about Friends of Ramona Unified School.
    Dr G– not too late to donate your raise.. will still match you dollar for dollar!

  2. Anonymous

    Well said!

  3. Guest

    I Finally got off my butt and looked at that Fact Finders report and did some quick work with my calculator. I rounded some numbers a fraction of a percent. If the teachers take ALL the terms in that report. then:

    2012-13: they take a 3.25% decrease for the 6 furlough days and pay for 15% of their premium health care plan, that is retro to Feb. A few other things add up to maybe one half of one percent more. So if you are one of the highest paid teachers, your total cut is a max $2,600 for furloughs, Maybe $1,500 for health care.

    2013-14 and 2014-15: The same as this year except if we get more money from the state this summer, then the RTA can negotiate to cancel the furlough days The parents will surely back them on that, because I want my kid in school. The only thing big remaining is paying 15% of their health care. Max its $250/month for a whole family for a cadillac plan.

    ALL teachers eligible for their step increases (raises) will get them and have gotten them all through the recession. They are between $2K-$5K per year, depending upon their level. They will get these whether they are good or bad performers.

    THATS IT? The RTA is ripping our community apart for a few thousand dollars? I still have my job, but I took a WAY bigger hit than that, so did my wife, and we pay almost $1000/month for a high deductible health care plan. No raises. And if I or my colleagues didn't take on the additional load from other laid off workers I would be fired. My friends lost their jobs.

    I heard other teachers speak and cry that they would not be able to get a loan or would lose their homes. Yeah, maybe you will because you allowed the imposition to happen and didn't plan for any cuts you knew were coming. But now if you settle for the terms of the fact finder report, it will be a whole lot less painful. And I think I just read the Superintendent said publicly he would accept it. And the community will be behind you. You want to strike in Sept so my son can't play football? Do you think I’m going to support you? No Way. And I will show everyone else the math and get them to tell you the same. RTA PLEASE settle for the fact finder terms and end this.

    • Sue

      Part One RUSD is not taking the Fact Finding Report. According to the RUSD the "Resolution to Implement Changes in the Terms and Conditions of Employment" and based on the district's health provider's costs families will pay $4,887 annually for family health coverage. That's a loss of $489 per monthly pay period. Those costs are only for the cut for medical, not dental or vision benefits. If the insurance company raises its premiums, the district has claimed a hard cap for themselves and will pass the increase directly to the teacher.

    • Sue

      Part Two
      Then there will be on average $3050 yearly taken for salary cuts. So for the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 a teacher, with kids to support, will have lost on average $15, 874 in two years. It's not just a few thousand for a teacher who is supporting a family. It's the difference between living in the home they have worked so hard to buy and living in an apt. or rental. It is the loss of $152 per week that would have been used for groceries. For teachers this is not just a few thousand dollars. It's the difference between selling the house or not., buying groceries or not, putting shoes and clothes on growing kids or not. It's a lot of money to us.

    • SJ

      This imposition will only cost me a few thousand dollars? I get $2K-5K raise every year due to annual step increases? I sure as heck wish that were true!

      Let’s get back into the real world here and look at FACTS. Back around February, I calculated that my family would lose over $20,000 in the next three years with the deal that the district was offering at that moment. Since what has been imposed is even worse, I’m afraid to do the calculations to find out how much worse my loss will be. In my book, that’s a heck of a lot more than a few thousand dollars!

      As for annual step increases…Yes we do get them….Last year I got ZERO raise…YUP THAT’S ZERO, ZILCH, NADA. This year I got a whopping $1435. Next year I’ll get ZERO. Since many of our teachers are further along in seniority, they only get a step raise every fifth year. The years in between are ZERO.

      Most teachers would be thrilled to accept the fact finder’s report, but the FACT is that the district hasn’t made that offer.

      I’m so glad that you read the fact finder’s report, but please do a little more research before you attack Ramona Teachers. I am truly sorry if our petty little dispute disrupts your son’s football schedule. I am a big supporter of children in sports. I’m also a big supporter of paying my mortgage, putting gas in the car to get to school, buying groceries for my family, buying shoes for my children, buying supplies for my classroom…

  4. Teacher

    Please tell me where you read that the superintendent will settle for the fact finding report in its entirety. On Monday the board imposed cuts that were not aligned with the fact finding report. Hopefully you are not posting inaccurate information.

    • Joe

      That is right. RUSD is imposing much higher than the Fact Finding Report. Basically they took the community and teachers though the whole Fact Finding process and they threw it all out in favor of what they wanted anyway. Just like always… its the RUSD Admin's way or no way. That is the attitude the teacher's negotiation team has been up against. So don't think for a moment that the teachers did not try to find some middle ground. It takes two to negotiate and it wasn't the teachers who dug in their heels, contrary to what some people will lead you to believe.

  5. TheatreRat

    I can speak with some authority here — at least far more than "Guest" — as I serve on the Bargaining Committee for Association. __Each furlough day is usually equal to very close to a 0.5% salary reduction. Ramona's furlough days would mean a 7.8% reduction in pay. That would cost a teacher with my salary about $4,850. Spread over the school year, that would be difficult but manageable. But if those cuts are implemented midyear with only two paychecks left, it would mean about $2,425 per month. __The district demanded a three-year deal, with a cumulative 27% pay cut. The teachers offered to take a very reasonable 9.2% cut over two years. Given the fact that the district put itself in the hole they're in, the teachers have offered to do far more than their share of digging. The only real mistake RTA made was believing that the district administrators with whom they were negotiating were honorable people._

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