Dozens of San Ramon Valley teachers packed the school board meeting Tuesday night to show support for their union amid contract talks with the district in which union negotiators have asked for a larger salary increase than the district bargaining team appears willing to support.
The current proposal from the San Ramon Valley Education Association (SRVEA) bargaining team is a 6% ongoing salary increase, plus a one-time payment of 4% of members' annual salary this year, according to an email district superintendent Mary Shelton sent to all staff members Tuesday afternoon to provide them an update on negotiations.
But district negotiators think those figures -- when applied across the board to all employees, as is district practice -- would leave the district fiscally vulnerable in the coming years, Shelton wrote. So, the district countered with an offer of a 9.44% compensation increase that includes a 4% salary raise and 2% one-time payment, plus other incentives, she said.
Hours after Shelton's email, nearly 100 teachers donned red clothing and filled Tuesday evening's school board meeting to show support for the union bargaining team, according to SRVEA president Ann Katzburg.
"I'm going to speak tonight to tell you we are worth it. We're here because we want you to see us," she told the board members during public comment on non-agenda items. "We are working tirelessly on your behalf. We are working tirelessly on the behalf of our children."
"When times were lean, we did not ask for an increase in salary. We are partners," Katzburg added. "I'm seeing a loss in spirit, and I'm fearful that without recognition, our members will begin to burn out. We need to fill our spirits. We do need restoration."
Katzburg, who did not cite bargaining proposal specifics, spoke for just over a minute and was the only teacher to address the board on the topic.
School board president Greg Marvel responded by saying the board could not dialogue about the salaries because the issue was not listed on the meeting agenda.
But he added, "We hear you. We understand, and we're hoping that a settlement can be reached fairly quickly that honors the great work that you all do -- teachers, classified and administrators -- that make this, frankly, the best school district in California."
"We're going to do as a board, as a district, everything that we can within our fiduciary responsibilities to ensure that we honor you in every way possible, and that's what the bargaining process is for," Marvel said.
SRVEA, which represents more than 1,700 teachers and other employees, had roughly 5% of its membership in attendance wearing red shirts, sweaters, scarves, "SRVEA Strong!" pins or other items. They filled the chairs, lined the walls and some even crowded out of the door -- plus two teachers were there with their babies.
The color-coordination call was put out to the whole union through individual school site reps, according to Katzburg.
Most of the association members stayed for the duration of the board's 55-minute special meeting in Danville to adopt its 2016-17 instructional calendar that shifts the traditional schedule to instead end the first semester before winter break -- a change SRVEA and the other employee unions endorsed.
The organized teachers weren't the only ones donning red Tuesday night.
School board member Rachel Hurd, the board's representative on the district's bargaining team, was wearing a red-and-black dress -- for a reason.
"I wore red to send a message that I support teachers; we do value teachers," Hurd said during a follow-up phone interview in which she also expressed support for the district's counterproposal.
Shelton also wore red Tuesday night -- a red turtleneck under a beige suit jacket -- but the color choice was coincidental, according to district spokeswoman Elizabeth Graswich.
The district and its unions are in salary negotiations for the current school year, as has been their practice, with new salaries to be applied retroactive to July 1.
According to Shelton's email, SRVEA initially proposed a 6% ongoing salary increase and a one-time payment of 5% of members' annual salary for 2015-16, based upon district budget assumptions that include more than $41 million in expected new state funding -- some ongoing, some one-time.
But if those incentives were applied to all district employees, budget reserves would be depleted to less than 4% in the coming years, which is "far below the 8% minimum reserve level the board has historically maintained to ensure the district's fiscal health and stability," Shelton wrote.
A 1% salary increase for SRVEA members would cost $1.33 million, and a 1% salary bump for all employee groups, including SRVEA, would be about $1.88 million, she said.
SRVEA followed with a revised proposal Dec. 11, reducing the one-time bonus to 4% but maintaining the 6% ongoing raise, according to Shelton.
The district's bargaining team countered by offering a 4% ongoing salary increase retroactive to July 1, 2% one-time bonus, 0.59% district-paid health and welfare and cash back increases, 1.61% increase in statutory retirement costs, 1.03% in step-and-column (longevity and expertise) increase and 0.21% ongoing raise for extra services pay for coaches and other similar positions, Shelton said.
The proposal would also delay negotiations on certain issues, such as special education class sizes and increased elementary prep time, until 2016-17 bargaining talks, which are set to start in March, according to the superintendent.
"The district and the Board of Education believe that this proposal is fair and fiscally responsible, that it maintains regionally competitive salaries and benefits, and that it addresses SRVEA's desire to negotiate ahead of a school year rather than in arrears," Shelton wrote.
She pointed out the 4% salary increase would cost $7.52 million for all employee groups and $3.76 million for the 2% one-time payments for all groups. It has been district practice for such salaries and bonuses to be applied equally to other employees, including classified workers, administrators and upper management.
"Any ongoing increases in expenditures, including salaries, must be funded with ongoing revenues," she wrote in her email.
The district expects to receive $25.3 million in new, ongoing state funding and $16.44 million in one-time state revenue for 2015-16, according to Shelton.
The 2015-16 district budget includes $18.2 million in already allocated new expenditures, including $2.9 million in new salaries for classified and certificated employees, $4.7 million for increased employee benefits, $4.7 million for increased special education, $2.2 million for new textbooks and supplies, and $2.38 million for services and operating expenditures, according to Shelton.
In addition to teachers, SRVEA also represents district counselors, nurses, psychologists, librarians and speech pathologists. The district has two unions representing three distinct bargaining units for classified employees.
Coming out of the recession, employee bargaining groups received a 4% bonus in 2012-13, a 4% ongoing salary increase in 2013-14, and a 2% raise and 2.38% bonus last school year.