Ramona school board approves $45 million budget
Teachers, trustees ratify agreement
By Maureen Robertson
If one thing’s certain about Ramona Unified School District’s 2013-14 budget, it’s uncertainty.
Trustees approved a $45 million budget on June 6, acknowledging there likely will be changes for several reasons. Among them are: the state has not yet passed a 2013-14 budget; budget proposals from the governor, Senate and Assembly differ; the district is unsure how much it will receive from Gov. Brown’s new school finance formula, called the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF); and districts do not know if there will be restrictions on LCFF dollars.
Despite that, “we’re cautiously optimistic,” Assistant Superintendent David Ostermann said. “For the first time in at least five years we have a brighter outlook for our economy.”
Also, the district a week earlier had reached a tentative agreement with the Ramona Teachers Association. RTA ratified the agreement June 4 and trustees gave their approval minutes before the budget hearing. Because the agreement affects district contracts with its support and management employees, “we had a time crunch of trying to get all the numbers into our budget correctly,” Assistant Superintendent David Ostermann said, adding that, while the major details are included, some minute details aren’t yet.
The agreement ends June 30, 2014, and calls for employee contributions to health benefits, elimination of the district contribution to the RTA SAFE account, 5.5 furlough days for the 2013-14 school year, restoration language for 2013-14 if the district receives more money, and discontinuing the $1,500 annual incentive the district has paid teachers to waive medical coverage.
While two parents commended trustees, the administration and the RTA for reaching an agreement after about 18 months of contentious negotiations, RTA’s chief negotiator, Grant McNiff, said, “This tentative agreement is by no means a cause for celebration.”
“Your campaign to spread fear, deceive the public and slander Ramona teachers is reprehensible,” he said. “Your unwillingness to be honest and settle months ago would have saved tens, maybe thousands of dollars spent on attorney fees and strike adviser fees. Your desire to smear teachers and destroy our union has opened wounds that will take years to heal.”
From now on, he said, “all of us will be watching, constantly, questioning every decision and every expense that’s made.”
Denise Croom, a co-founder of the Ramona Parents Coalition, thanked the RTA and district leadership “for listening to the voices of our community” and agreeing to meet May 29.
“Thank you for the numerous hours and tireless dedication it took to come to a compromise,” said Croom. “Thank you for setting aside your differences and putting our children first.”
Looking forward, she continued, the agreement will end in about a year.
“We hope both sides can work on rebuilding a working relationship that will enable you both to negotiate productively next summer,” she said.
The parents coalition will stay involved and remain dedicated to researching issues and supporting the three objectives she said the coalition calls the tripod:
•Protecting educational quality of our children,
•Maintaining competitive compensation for teachers, administration and classified, and
•Help the district achieve and maintain fiscal stability.
Parent Don Gruneisen said he’s been “torn in a lot of different directions by what’s been going on” and appreciates that all sides reached agreement.
“I hope that, having reached an agreement, that can become more the norm going forward…Do your best, all of you, to compromise, and start with that as a goal — reaching an agreement,” he said.
Gruneisen also encouraged the trustees and administration to “set aside, if not an adequate amount, at least a larger amount, toward ongoing maintenance. My perception from looking at all of this is that that kind of comes last.” He suggested setting some money aside for maintenance, separate from negotiations — “enough to keep the schools safe and in good state of repair for the kids and the other people who visit.”
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- District, teachers settle on two-year agreement
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