Denair Unified School District teachers are saying that a modest one-time payment approved by the Board of Trustees last week is just not enough to heal the financial wounds they received nearly four years ago when they were dealt 8 percent pay cuts in the face of a potential State takeover.
“When you think about it, the teachers and classified staff who took pay cuts saved the district,” said Denair Unified Teachers Association President Linda Richardson. “At some point that needs to be recognized.”
Richardson said this year teachers are hoping for full salary restoration. During negotiations for this year’s DUTA contract, DUSD promised to fully restore salaries by the first interim report in December if the district could meet reserves, had no interagency debts, and were able to successfully project the restoration out three years.
With an increase in enrollment this year and $4.1 million “in the bank,” Richardson said the district should be able to pay approximately $250,000 per year to restore salaries by the full 8 percent.
“Our budget is very healthy so the Association’s stance at this point is the money is there—we should be able to fully restore salaries,” said Richardson.
When the district was on the verge of a State takeover in 2013, salaries for every DUSD employee were reduced by at least 8 percent and up to 12 percent as part of an effort to bring expenses and revenue into alignment. The lingering effects of the recession and declining enrollment combined to push the district into financial crisis, which required a short-term loan from the Stanislaus County Office of Education and intervention by the State.
To “add salt to the wounds” of teachers and classified staff who took the 8 percent cuts at that time, Richardson said that DUSD increased managerial salaries to be competitive with similar positions in the county in 2013 before applying pay cuts.
“All of our managers actually received an increase in salary when we were in the middle of financial strife,” said Richardson. “Some teachers have left feeling frustrated because of that.”
DUSD employees received a sliver of their promised salary restoration in May when the Board approved a 1 percent increase, which went into effect July 1 for the 2016-17 school year. Collectively, the increase will add $98,499 to the district’s budget next year.
At a special meeting on Oct. 6, the DUSD Board of Trustees approved a 2.37 percent one-time payment for all teachers who were employed by the district during the 2015-2016 school year. This payment will cost DUSD $110,861 and matches the amount given to classified staff earlier this year.
“It was not a restoration, it was not a bonus. I think it was an attempt on the district’s part to try and alleviate some of what’s been going on,” said Richardson. “I think the district is aware that we are really at the bottom of the salary schedule of the county. We’re having a really hard time attracting teachers, since they can easily get $20,000 more a year going up to Modesto or Ceres or down the road to Turlock.
“The district is realizing that if they want to attract and retain new and good teachers, they are going to have to be competitive with our salaries,” continued Richardson.