Teachers and staff of the local high school district have agreed to forego salary increases for two years. The pay freeze, together with a change in retirement benefits for some staff members, will help the Mountain View Los Altos high school district save money, officials said.
At its Sept. 13 meeting, the high school board approved salary freezes for teachers and school staff represented by the California School Employees Association.
The teachers union and the local chapter of the CSEA went along with the district's plan, which ensures that salaries will not increase for employees represented by either union until the 2011-2012 school year at the earliest.
"Our whole goal is to maintain the current salaries and benefits, avoid furlough days and possible layoffs," said Chris Pedersen, a labor relations representative for the CSEA. Superintendent Barry Groves said that the district has made $3.2 million in cuts to its budget over the last two years, and in order to "stay solvent" the district needs to take a long view of its financial situation.
"We're looking at not only this year, but trying to balance our budget in the future," Groves said.
Pedersen said the CSEA understands the district's efforts to save money in trying financial times. "Given the state of the state and current funding, it's the only real option," he said, in reference to the current long-stalled California budget, which was scheduled to be passed on July 1, but has yet to be approved.
Without a budget in place, school districts can only estimate the funding they might receive from the state. Groves said the district is anticipating a $1 million reduction once the Legislature approves a state budget.
Groves also said the district will see a 1.7 percent dip in revenue from property taxes this year.
The district is also making a change to the health benefits package of retiring classified employees, identified as anyone who is not a manager or a teacher.
The change stipulates that when a classified employee retires, if the employee is eligible to receive health benefits the district will pay only up to the amount it pays for current employees for coverage. Groves said that change will likely be approved at the next school board meeting.
Groves said that due to the uncertainty of the state budget, the property tax decrease and the fact that salary increases are negotiated anew each year he is not sure how much money the district will save when the changes are implemented.