District declares impasse in teacher talks

School board considers bond

By Maureen Robertson

Ramona teachers are not taking any furlough days this school year, Donna Braye-Romero, president of the Ramona Teachers Association said on Friday.

“It’s our belief the district doesn’t need them for this year,” Braye-Romero said.

As a result of the inability of negotiators for Ramona Unified School District and the teachers union to reach an agreement on March 6, the district declared the two parties are at an impasse. This means the Public Employment Relations Board will send a mediator to work with both sides in an effort to reach an agreement.

Members of the district’s non-teaching staff’s California School Employees Association (CSEA) last month agreed to take three furlough days before June 30, the end of the 2011-12 school year, a move expected to save the district $121,372.

Superintendent Robert Graeff said members of the district’s management team also will take three furlough days in an effort to save money.

Had the teachers agreed to take three furlough days, Ramona’s public schools would have been closed April 10, May 24 and May 25. Instead, CSEA members and management workers will arrange with their supervisors and departments to take three unpaid days off before June 30.

School districts throughout California faced mid-year cuts this year because the state did not meet its revenue projections. In addition, the Ramona district predicts as much as an $11.6 million deficit in the next two years.

“They have more than enough for the 2011-12 school year,” Braye-Romero said, citing money already taken from each school and the CSEA workers that have been laid off as among reasons the RTA does not see a need for furlough days. “There shouldn’t be an additional need for this year.”

The teachers have said they want a retirement incentive to increase the number of teachers retiring this year.

“That would lower the cost for next year,” said Braye-Romero. “They (district) said no.”

The district previously gave incentives for older and higher paid teachers to retire. One year it was $30,000 and the next year $80,000.

“We feel we are in a very difficult financial situation and we need to spend less than we’re bringing in,” Assistant Superintendent Anne Staffieri said on Monday. “We need to stop deficit spending.”

Employee salaries and benefits are 90 percent of the district’s budget, she said. If the teachers had agreed to furlough days, each day would have saved the district $124,000, she said.

School districts in California have the authority to reduce the school year by five days, Staffieri said. There are 180 teaching days in Ramona Unified’s school year.

Among items on the school board’s March 13 agenda is the district’s second budget report of the 2011-12 year and a report on the possibility of asking district voters to support a general obligation bond for schools. A report of the discussions will be on the Sentinel’s website and in the newspaper’s March 22 issue.

The school board last May heard two financial advisers outline the district’s options regarding a bond. They advised the board not to hold a bond election until after groundwork is laid and a pre-election survey shows voter support.

A financial firm conducted a survey of community members earlier this month and a report of those findings is scheduled to be presented at the March 13 trustee meeting.

   
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