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Danville Express

Newsfront - May 2, 2008

Teachers to get retroactive pay increases

State budget sends San Ramon Valley school board members back to the bargaining board for next year's salaries

by Geoff Gillette

Teachers in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District will be seeing a pay increase this year although it may not be as much as they were looking for. At their April 22 meeting, members of the school board gave unanimous approval to a plan that will provide a 2.3 percent salary increase for the 2007-08 school year, retroactive to July 1, 2007.

District spokesman Terry Koehne said the 2.3 percent figure will be broken down slightly, as 0.3 percent of those funds will be put toward retirement benefits.

Board members also approved a contract with support staff represented by the Service Employees Union. Those employees will see a 2 percent increase, of which 0.4 percent will go toward retirement benefits. In addition, management staff will be given a 2 percent increase.

Koehne said the figures approved at the meeting were not what the school board had originally intended for the teachers this year.

"We originally had a 3 percent increase on the table in January. Literally, the day in which we were going to approve it, the governor came out with his January budget proposal, which was a very dire time," said Koehne. "The announcement sort of put people on their heels."

That announcement from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called for serious reductions in education funding, which prompted the Contra Costa County Office of Education to ask the district to resubmit its budget projections. This forced the school board to go back to the negotiating table and work out a new agreement with the bargaining groups.

"We're pleased with the compromise and proud of the positive relationship we have with our bargaining units and their willingness to compromise," Koehne said.

"It's tough to make cuts in a budget year," he added.

With the pay raise, a starting salary for a teacher is $44,376, according to a schedule posted on the district's Web site. After 25 years and with continuing education, the salary could be as high as $83,949.

Koehne said the district is still working on a spending plan for next year. Board members are holding special budget meetings to go through line items to look for areas where they can cut.

He said they will try not to cut programs offered to students in the district.

"Once you get rid of a program, it's tough to bring it back," he noted. "Some districts have already made those decisions, but we want to be as thoughtful as possible, make sure our numbers are accurate, and stay true to that philosophy. At that same time, it's important to our board that our employees have comparable compensation. Not just for the purpose of attracting employees but retaining them."

Despite the cutbacks, the district will not be laying off teachers this year.

"There is some reduction in staff but that's happening mainly through attrition," Koehne said. "We didn't give out any layoff notices; you could hear a sigh of relief through the district. We are going to have to go into reserves a little bit but attrition is helping us there."

Reserves are expected to help keep the district afloat amid the budget turmoil, but officials are hopeful that voters will send them some help in June. The Measure D parcel tax will be on the ballot June 3. If passed, the measure would replace the current $90 per parcel property tax with $166 per parcel.

Koehne said the parcel tax has been instrumental in providing the district with a number of programs. Some of those include high school and middle school librarians and counselors, the fifth-grade instrumental music program, and class-size reductions for K-3 and high school. If approved, the new parcel tax would raise around $7 million per year, up from the $4 million a year currently raised.

"If it doesn't pass, it's going to hurt," said Koehne. "We'll have to go back to the drawing board and bring something else in, as we can't afford to let those programs go."

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