The San Ramon Valley school board approved a new collective bargaining agreement with the teachers union Tuesday night.
After months of negotiations, the district and the San Ramon Valley Education Association (SRVEA) reached an agreement to increase salaries by 3%, retroactive to July 1, 2016, a one-time payment worth 2% of the employees' annual salary and no salary increase for the 2017-18 school year.
SRVEA held a general meeting earlier in the week, said union president Ann Katzburg, and of the 1,325 members that showed up, 99.8% approved the agreement.
Katzburg specifically thanked Superintendent Rick Schmitt for constantly reaching out to her, allowing them to "navigate a very precarious path."
"Our openness and honesty with each another has allowed us to reach a tentative agreement," she told the school board during its meeting Tuesday night in Danville.
In turn, assistant superintendent of human resources Keith Rogenski acknowledged Katzburg's leadership and communication in these negotiations, which, he said, "admittedly got a little bit grumpy at times."
The district had already approved deals with the two classified unions, the California School Employees Association (CSEA) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), that included the 3% retroactive raise for 2016-17 and no raise for 2017-18. However, district officials said, these agreements included a clause that if another bargaining unit were to settle for anything greater, the increase would also apply to CSEA and SEIU.
So the school board also publicly updated those agreements on Tuesday night, in order to reflect the 2% bonus in their agreements as well.
As part of the agreement, the salary increases for all three groups included statutory benefits, which comes out to about 25 cents on every dollar of salary for classified employees and about 18 cents on the dollar for certificated employees, according to chief business officer Greg Medici.
The overall cost of the SRVEA agreement comes out to almost $7.9 million; the total cost of the CSEA agreement is a little over $1.7 million and the SEIU one comes out to about $689,000.
The Contra Costa County Office of Education officials reviewed the proposed agreements and confirmed in a letter that the district could afford the deals. But, associate county superintendent Bill Clark wrote, "We encourage the district to be conservative in their spending and future salary negotiations."
The approval and updates came amidst a larger discussion on what board members saw as an unsettling financial future for the district.
Enrollment is no longer growing, board members noted. According to Schmitt, while this year's overall numbers saw 60 students over the budget target, there are now 400 fewer elementary students from the previous year, and there are currently about 1,000 fewer students in kindergarten than in 9th grade.
Money coming in from the state is decreasing as well, as SRVUSD nears its target established by the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF).
The LCFF was enacted in 2013-14, replacing the previous K-12 finance system that had been in place for about 40 years. Through its formula, the LCFF determines a "target amount" of funding that each district should be allocated, based on the average daily attendance, and based on the number of students in a district who are classified as English learners, those on free or reduced income lunch and foster youth.
Since LCFF was implemented, districts across California have been receiving gap funding in order to reach their targets. Currently, SRVUSD, like most other districts across the state, is at 97% of its target LCFF funding, meaning that in a few years it will no longer receive gap funding.
Additionally, said Medici, increased expenditures are on the horizon. Pension costs for both certificated and classified employees are rising for school employers and utilities bills are going up -- all of which means that expenditures are outpacing revenues.
It's not a problem faced alone by SRVUSD, Medici said. "All districts are trying to be as innovative as possible while trying to be financially responsible," he added.
At Tuesday night's meeting, board member Greg Marvel expressed concerns about the future financial situation. "We've got a lot of work to do, to re-think how we’re doing business, and make sure our employees are well-taken-care-of, and our students continue to receive one of the top-quality educational experiences in the state," he said.
But, added board members Denise Jennison and Ken Mintz, the decreased class sizes are needed, particularly in the Dougherty Valley.
"We still need to alleviate those campuses out in the Dougherty Valley...And even when we level off, those schools are still going to have very high student populations," Jennison said.