2/08 tahoe mt.news
By Kathryn Reed
Nevada’s budget crisis has prompted the Douglas County School Board to stall ratification of tentative contract agreements with the classified staff and administrators. Talks with teachers stalled months ago. Outcome of this month’s arbitration meetings was unknown because of printing deadlines.
Gov. Jim Gibbons wants to slash the K-12 budget by 4.5 percent. In a press release last month his office said, “Recent revenue projections estimate that Nevada’s budget shortfall has grown to nearly $517 million. The combination of higher unemployment, higher gas prices, higher costs for food and other necessities has slowed consumer spending in Nevada as it has across the country.”
Despite the woes in the Silver State, not everyone in DCSD thinks that should be the deciding factor in not going forward with negotiations.
“The district has plenty of money to absorb those budget cuts. Kingsbury Middle School is going to close next year. That will be a huge savings as well. The district is not hurting financially,” said Susan Lacey, president of the Douglas County Professional Education Association.
The teachers declared impasse last summer after 13 meetings and more than 50 hours of discussions with the district. In the fall they opted to go to arbitration, with the first meetings being earlier this month.
Lacey said teachers thought about going back to the table after the classified union did following its declaration of impasse, but chose not to when the board refused to ratify that contract. The classified contract was on the Jan. 8 agenda. It included a 4 percent raise for this school year and 3 percent for 2008-09.
“What the board did was in concept agreed with the tentative agreement that was reached,” Superintendent Carol Lark said. “My heart goes out to our employees. It would be irresponsible to recommend settlement of salaries when we don’t know what the budget is going to be. I think they feel they are being held hostage when I feel the same thing.”
She said until the state tells her exactly how much is going to be cut she is not in a position to go forward with contract settlements.
Lark said instead of the 4.5 percent reduction, it could be 1.2 percent if the other school districts in the state slash what she calls “one-shot monies.” The problem is it would affect larger districts like Clark and Washoe counties, which account for 74 percent of the state’s students, harder than rural districts like Douglas.
Before the budget crisis came to light, the district had offered teachers a 2 percent salary hike for the current school year and 3 percent for next.
“We are not trying to get a Cadillac, we’re just trying to get the same Chevy the rest of the state has,” Lacey said. She said what the administrators negotiated is more along the lines of what her union would like.
The admin contract was on the Dec. 11 school board agenda, but not ratified because of the budget scenario. The agreement at that time was to eliminate the entry level step which would automatically give all administrators a 2.5 percent raise. On top of that they would get another 2.5 percent for this year and 4 percent for 2008-09.
As with most contracts, a slew of other items are included besides raises.
Health care was removed from the contact a few years ago. A 10-person committee of teachers, classified, bus drivers and administrators figure out what’s best. The district, as is the norm throughout the state, picks up 100 percent of those costs.
The one contract that was ratified before the budget bugaboo was announced is with the bus drivers. They received a 2.5 percent raise this school year and will get 4 percent more in 2008-09.