School district to start negotiations for 2012-13

Mediation ends

with no teacher

furloughs this year

By Maureen Robertson

Two days of mediation ended with Ramona Unified School District and Ramona Teachers Association concluding negotiations for the 2011-12 school year and setting dates to begin 2012-13 negotiations.

Neither side changed its mind as a result of the talks, but the district conceded that teachers will have no furlough days this school year.

Other school district  workers — support staff and management — agreed to three unpaid furlough days before June 30.

“We just agreed to conclude the negotiations,” said Superintendent Robert Graeff. “They would not talk to us about next year until we concluded this year.”

The district would have saved $250,000 this year if the teachers had agreed to two furlough days, said Graeff.

“They didn’t suffer a hit. They didn’t give us what we wanted,” he said. “That makes negotiations for the next year more difficult.”

Ramona High School teacher Michael Jordan, union vice president and negotiations team member, agrees 2012-13 will be a difficult year.

“With the current budget crisis and the continuing crisis at the state level, we are eager to start working on the next year,” he said.

There was no winner in the mediation held this month, said Jordan.

Representatives of both sides met in different rooms, with the Public Employment Relations Board mediator going to each room in an effort to broker a settlement, he said.

“The mediator is not a judge or an arbitrator,” said Graeff. “The mediator represents both sides to each other. Her goal is to get a deal. She didn’t get that done.”

Directed by San Diego County Office of Education to plan for the worst-case scenario, the district projects ending the 2011-12 budget year on June 30 with $4.2 million.

The district’s most recent projections for 2012-13 show that year ending with a $1.4 million deficit. Projections for 2013-14 show a $9.4 million deficit.

Added to the state budget crisis is Assembly Bill 103, which affects the state’s ability to defer money, said Graeff.

“Our budget problems are now becoming more challenging,” he said.

Schools traditionally borrow money when there is a cash flow problem caused by state deferrals, but the districts must repay loans within the year.

“We’re going to do our very best to squeeze by another year,” said Graeff.

If the proposed tax initiative on the November ballot passes, “it helps us, but it doesn’t solve the problem,” said Graeff, saying the district needs employee concessions.

“Some districts continue to take concessions with contingency language,” he said.

What he called “snap-back language” is common, so “employees have a way of being protected.”

“I think both sides know that next year will be a lot of belt-tightening,” said Jordan.

He agreed the district has “a tough road to walk down,” not knowing whether the tax initiative will pass and having to approve a budget before the state approves its budget.

“Let’s focus on next year,” said Jordan. “Let’s have earnest, honest negotiations.”

Negotiation meetings for 2012-13 are set for June 12 and 19, he said.

“We’re not wasting any time,” he said. Both sides understand the urgency to get to work on this task.”

A Ramona resident for 30 years and a teacher for 15 years, Jordan said he plans to teach here another 20 years and his three sons will attend Ramona schools.

“I want to see this district be solvent,” he said. “I want to see this district be healthy. ‘11-12 is over. Let’s get on with the hard work of ‘12-13.”

   
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