Mountain View Voice

News - January 8, 2010

College district cuts employee benefits — layoffs loom

by Kelsey Mesher

A New Year does not mean a fresh start for educators struggling to balance budgets. At Foothill College, President Judy Miner announced in a statement last month that reductions in the school's 2010-11 budget will total around $4.5 million, reflecting a bigger shortfall district-wide.

"Ordinarily, this would be a time to wind down the quarter and take a well-deserved break before the start of a new calendar year," Miner said in the statement. "Unfortunately, our budget challenges are not on hiatus, so I want you to know what Foothill faces and how we are proceeding."

The Foothill-De Anza district budget must be balanced when the next fiscal year begins in July; to do so, district officials decided in December to cut benefits for "all employee groups," said Kurt Hueg, Foothill's associate vice president of external relations.

The cuts, which should free up around $5.3 million for the district, will mean steeper co-pays, as well as higher monthly payments, for district employees, Hueg said.

"All of the unions and meet-and-confer groups had to agree in order to make changes to the insurance plans," noted district spokesperson Becky Bartindale. "They worked hard with the district for many, many months to come up with this solution."

As for the more serious measure of letting go of employees, Hueg said, "By the end of the month we are going to be identifying some additional full-time positions for elimination."

The layoffs will be "across the board," he said, though it is likely that teacher positions will be spared this round. He also said fee hikes are a possibility for next year.

Hueg said he been working in community colleges since 1992, and that the current budget crisis is "by far the most devastating" he's experienced.

Bartindale said district officials are still waiting to sort through the governor's latest budget proposal, to be released Friday. Meanwhile, the idea of a parcel tax has come up on board meeting agendas, she said, but trustees are wary.

"I've heard (interim Chancellor) Mike Brandy say that no community college has ever passed a parcel tax."

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