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Look for negotiations to bring health benefits back to Pleasanton teachers

Uploaded: May 1, 2019
Pleasanton schools chief David Haglund and the trustees agree that a key part of his job is strategic planning—something they believe has been lacking.

He told a group of retired church men on tax day that the district’s long-time policy of not paying any health benefits was going to have to change. Haglund cited the district’s challenges in recruiting and retaining employees, whether mid-managers or teachers. That’s a key long term issue.

The district has not paid health benefits since the 1988 when the Pleasanton and Dublin school districts unified along the city limits. Before unification, Dublin was a k-8 district with Lydiksen and Donlon schools in Pleasanton, while the Amador Valley High School District operated Dublin High, Amador Valley High and Foothill High and there was a separate Pleasanton elementary district. The unification process, through a provision in state law that no employee could lose wages or benefits, had Dublin maximize its benefits package while Pleasanton maximized salary.

When the unified districts formed, there was about $8,000 in benefit expenses from Dublin that the Pleasanton teachers’ union choose to put on the salary schedule and pay their own benefits. Remember, health benefits were affordable in those days and it amounted to about a 20 percent increase with top salaries in the $40k range.

With health insurance for a family now between $1,500-2,000/month, employer-paid benefits are a key perk that Pleasanton lacks. The superintendent noted that members of the executive cabinet in the San Ramon Valley district average $30,000 more in salary plus another $24k in benefits compared to his senior team.

To bring employer-paid benefits back in Pleasanton, Haglund said it must be negotiated with the teacher’s association. A likely path is a two-tiered salary system that is different for new employees. Pleasanton teachers top at $110,000. After 25 years, San Ramon Valley teachers top at $101k plus employer-paid benefits.

San Ramon Valley, which serves San Ramon, Danville, Alamo, Diablo and Blackhawk, is more than twice as large as Pleasanton (31,428 students vs. just under 15,000) and has about $150 more per student in revenue than Pleasanton. Pleasanton has the lowest per student revenue of any district in the Tri-Valley at $10,759 (San Ramon, $10,902; Dublin, $11,045; Livermore, $11,098). One difference is the other three districts have parcel taxes providing local funds. All have local bond measures.

Pleasanton voters passed a $270 million bond in 2016 and likely could find a “no new tax” measure on the 2020 ballot. An existing 1997 bond will be paid off so the district could give voters the option of continuing paying the same bill on their property taxes instead of seeing the bill reduced.

From a local revenue standpoint, the district may well consider a parcel tax that voters in other Tri-Valley communities have passed easily and renewed.

Haglund also alerted the guys that the first two months of school at Amador Valley were going to be challenging for students who drive to school. Starting right after school closes in June, the main student parking lot at Amador Valley will morph into a construction zone. A contractor will be installing large solar panels in the parking lot, a move that will save the district about $2 ½ million over 25 years, he said.

The challenge is that the work is scheduled to last potentially into October so it will be two months without 400 parking spaces.
Haglund said the district has arranged for buses to pick up and drop off students and urges parents to insist their kids leave the cars home.
Given the parking restrictions in Jensen tract across from the high school, that’s advice families would be wise to heed.
The district also launched an online survey to solicit parent and student comments and ideas on how to cope with the situation.

Local Journalism.
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Posted by Karl Aitken, a resident of Pleasanton Valley,
on May 2, 2019 at 11:47 am

Looks like those of us that live directly behind Amador will have to add student parking crowding our streets to the current issue of parents / students speeding through the neighborhood to get to the school.

I seriously doubt parents will ask their kids to leave their cars at home......more traffic and disrespectful / inconsiderate treatment of our neighborhood is what I expect.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on May 3, 2019 at 7:40 am

I no longer have frequent contact with schools but I do recall several experiences of running out of the way of teens speeding, calling me names, flipping middle fingers and honking their car horns to frighten me.

I have always appreciated young folks and I respect the complex struggles that they must work through. I just wish that teens behind car wheels were less reckless and more respectful of pedestrians.

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills,
on May 4, 2019 at 6:29 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

The sins of the “father" . . . It was $10,000 in 1988�"a deal the then very senior staff negotiated to help their retirement calculations.

I haven't updated my spreadsheet since 2017, but based on raises alone (and there were years where there were no raises), the 1988 $10,000 was worth $22,505 in 2017. To be fair, the CPIU for the same period, 1988-2017, would have made that $10,000 worth $25,355. Benefits, rolled onto the salary schedule in 1988, increased with those raises.

Let's also not forget that something in the range of only 40% of staff take the benefits�"the other 60% keep the money. I'm not opposed to it�"it's just important to know. We should also know what kind of plans we are talking about as well. Many districts have negotiated for higher deductible plans and similar non-Cadillac plans in order to cut overall costs. What are we talking about covering here?

Additionally, I'm not sure it should matter the size of the district in terms of what teachers are paid. Yes, budgets differ, but a teacher in front of 20/25/30 students is a teacher in front of students.

I won't be in favor of a bond based on a non-starter argument of “you are already used to paying this . . . Just keep paying it." It has to be argued on it's own merits.

For a parcel tax, make it specific: X counselors, this/that program, or to pay for merit raises or benefits (although I see a never ending increase to the parcel tax in all scenarios).

Negotiations about taking benefits off the salary schedule is really about increasing pay by $25,000 and more over time. There is no way there will be a negotiation to roll $25,000 out of everyone's paycheck. With something in the neighborhood of 1,100 employees (I looked at Ed Data as a source)�"a rough cost guess is $27MM. This is a case where I'm happy to be corrected if that is a bad guess. Where are we getting $27MM?

Meanwhile, no one is talking about the other underfunded monster, pensions.

I'm all for attracting and paying for the best teachers, but there needs to be a trade for that kind of money. One that should be considered is increasing the time to reach tenure to the first day of the sixth year (five full years before reaching tenure).

Posted by professional beard trimmer, a resident of Highland Oaks,
on May 9, 2019 at 6:35 am

Pleasanton has a proud history of support for its public schools, which were established in 1867 �" even before the city was incorporated. Today, Pleasanton Unified School District serves over 14,500 students in nine elementary schools, three middle schools, two comprehensive high schools and one continuation high school and one high school for school age mothers and fathers. And I think that is reason enough to make it happen!

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills,
on May 9, 2019 at 12:49 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

You neglect to mention those 14,500 students are being jammed into the schools you list. Amador has hit 2,700. Many parents are driving their children across town because there is no room in their neighborhood elementary or middle schools because PUSD's “proud history" is to kick the can down the road.

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