By Theresa Harrington
Today, the Mt. Diablo school district offered to pay some school secretaries now for an extra week of work in August that wasn’t paid to them when they expected it, according to Bryan Richards, the district’s chief financial officer.
In an e-mail, Richards defended the district’s original pay schedule, but said a new schedule was proposed due to the misunderstanding created when some 10.5 month employees reported back to work Aug. 9.
“Under the proposal, the district will pay an additional quarter month to the employees who reported back on Aug. 9 rather than Aug. 16 and will adjust the calculations for PERS to 3/4 month for August, whole months for September through May and 3/4 month for June,” Richards wrote. “The district submitted this proposal to the union today and they have taken it under advisement and will respond within the week.”
Richards also added his own knowledge to some of the questions previously answered by Julie Braun-Martin, assistant superintendent of personnel, regarding the pay mixup. Here are the answers he provided to my questions:
Q. Are you in fact waiting until August to pay the secretaries for the extra week?
A. No. The pay cycles are as follows: The first ½ month of work is paid on August 31, 2010. The next full month is paid on September 30, 2010, etc. through June 30, 2010. This is no different than for any other bargaining unit on the 10.5 pay cycle.
Q. Are you doing this with all 10.5 hour employees?
A. All 10.5 month employees whose calendars do not report back on the first workday of a month are in the same pay cycle with the following exception: Employees who were new to the 10.5 month pay class who had previously been in the 11 month pay class had their pay spread across 11 months for the transition year only. This meant their monthly rate of pay is lower than for the other employees in the 10.5 month pay class as they are receiving 11 equal checks, per their request when the change of schedule was initiated.
What made this year different for 32 of the employees already in the pay classification (not all of the 10.5 month employees) was that their report back date was changed from August 16 to August 9 and their last day of work was changed from June 30 to June 22.
Q. Did you inform the secretaries you were doing this? If so, were they given the opportunity to opt out?
A. Yes, information went out as to the change in reporting back day from summer vacation. It was mistakenly assumed by some that this meant their pay cycle was changing. However, it was never negotiated between the union and the District to do so.
Q. Does PERS approve of this idea?
A. Yes, PERS expects us to report in months or portions thereof, with a month consisting of 21.6667 days. We spread pay out across 9 ½, 10, 10 ½, 11, 11 ½ or 12 months according to the number of days worked spread across the nearest number of months or half months for the number of days in their annual pay. Employees working a full month on their first month back and ending their year in mid June are reported as full months through May and a half month in June. Employees reporting back in the middle of a month are reported and paid as half month in their first month and full months through June 30th.
Nevertheless, due to the misunderstanding created with the change of date to report back from summer on their work calendar, today we offered to the bargaining unit an alternate solution that we hope will address everyone’s concerns and satisfy those who felt they were shortchanged with the altered report back day.
Q. I have also been told the district wants to cut the hours of secretaries and instructional assistants to 3 hours with no benefits and that the board may vote on this proposal Tuesday. Is this true? What is the rationale for this?
A. Due to the recently reported deal the legislature may have reached with the governor’s office on a State budget, we have pulled this item from the agenda pending our review of what the State budget holds for the District. Once we have completed that assessment, we will determine whether or not we need to bring additional cuts to the Board. You will recall that during budget adoption, we needed $9 million in additional cuts subject to negotiations. We have not yet been able to implement these cuts and if we are not able to get them negotiated very soon, we will be required to implement alternative cuts that are not subject to negotiations.
Q. How does the district intend to spend the federal jobs money ($6.5 million)? Might the district consider using it to pay for employee health costs and/or return hours that have been cut for some employees?
A. Until the State budget is adopted, we are making no firm commitments on the use of these funds as one of the proposals last touted in the legislature included the suspension of Proposition 98. We will address use of these funds after we know our State funding levels. That said, it is highly unlikely the District would use one-time funds to cover ongoing costs as we would have no mechanism for sustaining the payments once the one-time Federal funding was depleted.
I apologize for not being able to get back to you earlier. Our external auditors have been here all last week and their needs had to take priority over all others so that we can finish the audit on time.”