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Mt. Diablo district secretaries and instructional assistants speak out

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, October 15th, 2010 at 12:20 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district, Theresa Harrington.

By Theresa Harrington

OCT. 13:

At the Mt. Diablo school board meeting last night, several secretaries and instructional and special education assistants spoke out about how a plan to cap the district’s contributions to their benefits would affect them. I videotaped a few of them, which I’ve embedded below.

Here’s special education assistant Patricia Gardiner, who asks trustees to spend a day in her shoes. “I know my value,” she said. “It’s a shame the board doesn’t.”

Here is CSEA union rep and member Kim Montaro telling trustees her bargaining unit rejected a tentative agreement that would require employees to pay higher health benefit contributions. She threatens to strike if a deal can’t be reached.

Here is board President Paul Strange explaining the district’s position.

Here’s what Superintendent Steven Lawrence told me about the proposal in an e-mail:

“The cap on benefits is based on the following for 10 month employees for Kaiser:

Employee Only:
District pays $6508.30 annually or ($650.83 per month for 10 months) Employee will pay $319.60 annually or $31.96 per month for 10 months

Employee +1:
District pays $13,016.60 annually or $1,301.66 per month for 10 months
Employee will pay $639.10 annually of $63.91 per month for 10 months

Employee +2 or more:
District pays $16,921.70 annually or $1,692.17 per month for 10 months
Employee will be $830.80 annually or $83.80 per month for 10 months

The dollar amount that the district pays would be the hard caps moving forward. The annual hard cap amount will be the same and will be divided by 10, 11 or 12 depending upon how many months an employee works. So the annual amounts will be the same, but the monthly amounts will be different because of how many times people make a payment during the school year. Any increase would need to be negotiated. Just as an FYI we also provide vision and dental for classified employees and are not asking to cap these benefits. The amount for dental and vision is approximately $1603 annually.”

The district is in jeopardy of state takeover, according to a Sept. 28 letter sent by the County Office of Education to the district, “Unfortunately, district approved and/or implemented cost reductions to date have not been sufficient to maintain the state required minimum reserve. Based on our review and analysis, we have concluded that the district does not meet the state required standards for fiscal solvency. Accordingly, the county superintendent hereby conditionally approves the district’s 2010-11 adopted budget.”

Bill Clarke, associate superintendent of business services for the County Office of Education, wrote: “The required reserve will continue to fall short of the minimum requirement by approximately $18.7 million in 2011-12 and $29.7 million in 2012-13. The 2011-12 and 2012-13 reserve amount is negative $(5.3 million) and $(23.9 million) respectively, indicating fiscal insolvency and the need for a state loan to meet district operating expenditures. Some or all of the district governance will be assumed by the state should a loan be required. The district must continue to take corrective actions to restore its fiscal health.”

District officials say the proposed cuts to benefits, along with furlough days (outlined in Plan B) would help them to make $9.8 million in ongoing cuts starting this year and solve their budget problems. They haven’t yet decided how they’ll spend the $6.5 million in federal jobs funds they expect to receive, which Congress approved to help prevent layoffs.

How do you think the district should solve its fiscal troubles?

After reading the above message from Lawrence, union rep Annie Nolen sent me the complete district proposal (embedded below), which shows that employees who work less than seven hours a day would pay substantially more, as well as those who choose Blue Shield coverage.

For 7-hour workers, Blue Shield coverage would cost $160 per month for the employee only, $320 a month including one dependent and $415 monthly with two or more dependents.

Six-hour employees would pay $125-$325 per month for Kaiser coverage or $253-$657 monthly for Blue Shield. Five-hour employees would pay $218-$567 a month for Kaiser or $346-$899 for Blue Shield, while four-hour workers would pay $311-$808 per month for Kaiser or $439-$1,141 monthly for Blue Shield.

“I want people to realize we’re not trying to be greedy,” Nolen said. “We’re trying to hold our heads above water. I had a lady crying to me, saying she thinks she has to quit her job because she can’t afford to pay this. I’ve had that from more than one, saying they don’t want to go. They love their jobs.”

In another e-mail, Lawrence wrote that the board gave themselves the same cap as the administrators, “which is actually slightly below the cap that was going forward on the CSEA proposal. In other words, they will pay slightly more money out of pocket on a monthly basis.”

This means trustees would pay the same rates as full-time administrative employees.

Do you think the district’s proposal is fair?

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