School district to furlough employees, cut pay

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After months of negotiations the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District reached a preliminary agreement with faculty unions on furloughs and pay cuts to be approved next month. Layoffs are being considered as well.

Katherine Peach / Special to the Malibu Times

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education at its meeting last week announced a tentative agreement with faculty unions on five-furlough days resulting in salary reductions. The salary negotiations resulted in reductions for all district employees to help weather the projected $14 million deficit in the fall.

“The board understands that reaching a tentative agreement with our employees that reduces their salaries through furloughs is a major sacrifice,” Board President Barry Snell said. “The irresponsibility of our state government has forced our school district to drastically reduce our reserves and to look for ways to reduce our expenditures while maintaining jobs and programs.”

Even with the furlough negotiations, the district is still considering laying-off as many as 120 employees in order to present a balanced budget to the Los Angeles County Office of Education, according to the district. Assistant Superintendent Michael Matthews said that certified staff, which includes teachers, nurses or counselors, must be notified by March 15 if they are not returning for the fall. He said negotiations for classified staff, such as custodians and security, would be reached in mid-March.

In addition, the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years will end five-days early to reduce the budget another $2 million each year. No health care or welfare benefit changes have been made for either year. Full HMO heath care and dental insurance will still be provided to full-time employees and their family, according to the district.

The district board negotiated for months with both the Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association, which represents teachers and other certified employees, and the Service Employees International Union, which represents classified employees. Any pay cuts resulting from the furlough days will affect all district and school administrators. A health benefits committee will investigate ways to reduce faculty health costs starting in January 2012.

“The financial reductions from the state are unprecedented,” Matthews said. “It is difficult to agree to reductions in school days for our students, and reductions in pay for our dedicated employees. But these sacrifices will have a positive impact on helping balance the budget, and will help to save jobs so that we can better serve our students.” 

The Board of Education meeting scheduled for Feb. 18 will further discuss the layoffs with a final vote as part of the March 4 agenda. The two employee unions must first vote to ratify the tentative measures with their membership before the board can approve any final salary agreements. Matthews said all parties must ratify the agreements otherwise, “We go back at it.”

During the closed session before last week’s meeting the board addressed several issues such as union negotiation strategies, employment evaluation and dismissal, according to the agenda. The board held two other special sessions Jan. 30 and Feb. 1 to discuss the budget and the emergency parcel tax vote set for May 25.

For a full detailed list of the budget meeting items visit the Web site www.smmusd.org.