By Maureen Robertson
Ramona teachers are scheduled to take a strike authorization vote in the Ramona High School Performing Arts Wing on Tuesday, May 7.
The vote is not to strike, explained Grant McNiff, Ramona teacher and chief negotiator for the Ramona Teachers Association.
“Teachers will vote to decide if it’s OK to strike...to give the RTA executive board the authority to strike,” he said.
The scheduled vote comes after Ramona Unified trustees last week approved cuts of 7.8 percent for teachers this school year and 9.4 percent the next two years. The cuts aren’t cumulative.
Teacher Donna Braye-Romero, RTA president, said a simple majority — 50 percent plus 1 — of those voting will decide.
“We don’t want to strike,” she said. “We’ve never wanted to strike. The district is forcing the situation.”
The trustees’ vote April 22 came after about 18 months of negotiations that included a state-sanctioned fact finding hearing and report. Copies of the report are online on the district’s website, ramonausd.net, and the teachers union website, ramonateachers.com.
After the vote, Trustee Dawn Perfect said insolvency is knocking at the school district’s door.
The district’s latest budget report projects Ramona Unified will have an ending balance of $3.2 million on June 30, the last day of this fiscal year, but will have a deficit of $1.68 million at the end of the 2013-14 school year. That projected deficit grows to $8.9 million in 2014-15.
“I know the county office (of education) will not approve our budget if it’s negative,” Superintendent Robert Graeff said Monday. “We would have to take immediate steps to remedy...Probably the county would enact a series of fiscal measures to either ensure we don’t go negative or we begin the process eventually to a state takeover.”
Graeff said he is not an expert in the closure of a district, and “I don’t want to become that expert. I want the district to take the right fiscal steps to ensure that we never have to address insolvency.”
Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to release his updated budget proposal this month and, McNiff said, the district’s updated budget report “will be coming out any day.” A report on both is expected at the trustees’ May 16 meeting.
RTA already has an unfair labor practice complaint against the district, and “amendments are being filed as we speak,” Braye-Romero said Monday.
If teachers next week give the four-member RTA executive board the authority to call for a strike, “it will be at the best strategic time to do it, at the right time where it would make the most sense,” said Braye-Romero. “But again, the teachers do not want to strike. At this point it’s not our desire to do this.”
The negotiations door remains open, district officials said.
RTA wants to see what Braye-Romero called restoration language in an agreement, “not a three-year imposition,” so if the district receives more money, teachers receive a reasonable return.