Letter to editor: Mammoth school district and teachers group declare impasse

(Press Release from Mammoth Unified School District)

Following months of negotiations with the teachers association, the Mammoth Unified School District and the Mammoth Education Association unfortunately have jointly decided to declare impasse in their negotiations.  Like all school districts throughout the state, Mammoth Unified has been forced to make deep budget cuts, which significantly compromises its ability to satisfy the teachers’ requests.

“By declaring impasse, the state will assign our District an objective, informed mediator who will review the parties’ proposals, listen to the concerns we have with our District’s budget and, I hope, help us reach an agreement,”  said Rich Boccia, Superintendent of Schools.  “Our intent is that this process will bring closure to negotiations, as we are running out of time.  And, given that we are just days from the start of school, I know that our teachers and this community would like to see all of us return our full attention to the students.”

Three-Year Projections Required

The District was required to present the Mono County Office of Education with a three-year budget on June 30,2012, a budget that must accommodate the state’s dire fiscal situation, including ongoing cuts to public education.  When presented to the county, the District’s budget must contain all operating and budget projections and precisely show how the District intends to maintain solvency across three school years.

To help maintain programs and services for students while accommodating these budget cuts, the District has a reserve of 29 percent.  Given the projected funding cuts to education and the District’s estimated operational costs, without structural changes being made to the manner in which we provide services, the District’s reserve will be reduced to 11 percent by the 2013-14 school year, and will show a negative 3 percent balance by 2014-15 school year, the third year out.

This reserve is creating a negotiations sticking point.

“I understand that a 29 percent reserve sounds like a pot of gold, but the simple truth is that these funds would barely cover four months of the District’s operational costs.  I would be a failed leader if I allowed the District to allocate this finite amount of money to an ongoing expense, such as employees’ benefits or salaries,” explains Superintendent Boccia.  In fact, Ron Bennett, President and CEO of School Services of California, the recognized leader in California school finance, has informed the District that because Mammoth Unified is a small basic aid district, it should have a 33 to 38 percent reserve, to address potential financial shortfalls.

“Pretending that you can cover an ongoing cost with one-time money would be a sure way to devastate this District and our community, who trust us to manage their tax dollars prudently and with an eye on our shared mission, which is service to students.”

Projected Cuts

The District’s total annual operating budget is approximately $12,000,000. must identify $800,000 in cuts for the 2012-13 year, plus an additional $500,000 if the Governor’s November tax initiative fails.  Further, the District is looking at future deficits of $1,100,000 in 2013-14 and $1,800,000 in 2014-15.

The Board of Education has set forth two key guiding points for negotiations.  First, they believe that these cuts must be a shared responsibility across the entire organization. Second, the District must not dismiss or marginalize its responsibility to provide all students with programs that will help ensure that they can compete in the 21st century.

To the first point, the Board of Education took action to reduce classified positions, including custodial, maintenance, food services and instructional aides, by $165,000.   Additionally, the District has achieved $86,000. through attrition.  The District is asking for the teachers’ union to assist in addressing the budget shortfalls in the form of furloughs and a health benefits cap.  And to the second point, the District is striving to help maintain positions, programs and services to meet the needs of students and help protect jobs.

The Spiraling Cost of Benefits

Currently, the District’s employee health benefits package costs the district approximately $20,000 for a family annual coverage.  “At a time when this nation, state and our region face record unemployment numbers, it is imprudent to use our diminishing budgets to cover increasing benefits costs.  This budget line item must be contained, there is no reasonable business alternative,” stresses Mr. Boccia.

“Employee frustration and anxiety over these discussions is understandable,” explains the Superintendent.  “Everyone in education works so hard to meet the needs of our kids; however, we did not create this situation.  The state’s dire fiscal situation has placed the ugly reality of budget cuts on the door step of fire and police departments, hospitals and schools and universities throughout the state.  We did not create this bad economy, but we are certainly left with the responsibility of helping to clean it up.”

The District appreciates and respects the hard work of all our employees and what they do for our children, their families and this community.   We are also grateful to all members of the bargaining team for devoting time to help resolve these negotiations.

29 Comments
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Heidi
Heidi
10 years ago

My mistake if my other comments diluted the comment I made about the high level of appreciation I have for the parents and parent teacher organizations I have worked with over the course of my career. If I insinuated blame toward the very people who make my job the most… Read more »

Great work Heidi!
Great work Heidi!
10 years ago

Whenever there is a proposed millage increase to help support education, you see busloads of angry, grizzled older people piped into town to vote it down. Here is something directly from the Tea Party Patriots’ website re: education Since 1958, the U.S. federal government has radically increased its control over… Read more »

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
10 years ago

“federal funding for K-12 education soared from $12.5 billion in 1965 to $72.8 billion in 2008, measured in constant 2008 dollars, ” The above ignores the population increase from the ’60’s to now, the general increase in the number of young people needing education and the number of immigrants who… Read more »

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
10 years ago

Attacks on teachers and education in general are a well developed strategy by the right wing that is used to dumb down the electorate. To make them easy to manipulate with meaningless slogans and vague promises so that stooges like Bush and Romney become electable tools for the very rich.… Read more »

Taking no responsibility
Taking no responsibility
10 years ago
Reply to  Ken Warner

Agreed. Those who foam-at-the-mouth at the mere mention of tax dollars going to teachers are the jaded and graying “patriots” who forgot that the same educational system taught themselves and their kids. Unfortunately, I think most of these old and graying “patriots” did not plan for their future very well.… Read more »

John Barton
John Barton
10 years ago

Nice autobiography.

kaat
kaat
10 years ago
Reply to  Ken Warner

Ken – There you go again putting people into neat little political boxes. Seriously, anyone could take out the term “right wing” and insert “left wing” and your comments would hold the same truth. Stop dividing people and making your assumptions about where people stand politically based upon their opinions.… Read more »

Dave
Dave
10 years ago

Heidi- First, thank you for your service as a teacher. Everybody knows people don’t become teachers for the huge salaries a professional ball player gets or someone else who never stepped into a college classroom. The priorities of this society are backwards in many ways. The amount of fiscal waste… Read more »

trouble
trouble
10 years ago

Heidi- you get a A+ in my book. Thanks!!

Heidi
Heidi
10 years ago

I do not feel the need to apologize, as a teacher, for my medical benefits, or for the cost incurred by the district to provide them. I have just a few questions as we ponder whether it’s a valued expense for society to make when members and organizations therein choose… Read more »

Taxpayer
Taxpayer
10 years ago
Reply to  Heidi

Heidi,
I gladly pay my taxes for the education of our children.

kaat
kaat
10 years ago
Reply to  Heidi

…….”to look at teachers as ungrateful and, in this case, selfish…” – it should be noted that I did not use the terms “ungrateful” OR “selfish” to describe teachers at MUSD or any teachers anywhere…I actually only spoke about “district employees” and while teachers are part of that group –… Read more »

Trouble
Trouble
10 years ago

Katt- my apology if I sounded like I thought you were making up facts. I totally agree with you that our first priority with or tax dollars should be our kids education. I think our kids health is just as important also. I hope it gets better soon also.

kaat
kaat
10 years ago
Reply to  Trouble

Thanks Trouble. I want to add that my children are healthy even it I am paying $1000 in premiums each month. Just saying that the district paying $20,000 a year for the district employees’ family health plans is way over the top and that the employees should pay more of… Read more »

Well-researched facts
Well-researched facts
10 years ago

Kaat –
With all due respect, I think quoting numbers and facts to some on this blog will only result in fingers stuck in their ears.
Be prepared to be called a liar or worse.

kaat
kaat
10 years ago

It’s important to represent both sides and if others think the I am lying, etc…so be it….but all sides need a voice. There are so many locals working in the government/public school that I can see why my comments are not well received. However, many of those same people also… Read more »

Big AL
Big AL
10 years ago
Reply to  kaat

For the record kaat, I’m not calling you a liar, well researched Dr. Facts is stirring the crap. I don’t think most see it that way either, but I just don’t see that it is costing that much.

Hypocrisy 1
Hypocrisy 1
10 years ago
Reply to  Big AL

Nice try Big Al, but your never-ending demonization of liberals (aka Democrats) is approaching legendary status. A Democrat happens to be in office now and to the nasty extremists he is a commie or something. Your non-stop whining about paying taxes (for anything) is absurd.

Trouble
Trouble
10 years ago
Reply to  Hypocrisy 1

Hypocrisy- wow your really wrong.

Big AL
Big AL
10 years ago
Reply to  Hypocrisy 1

Thank you, thank you very much Dr. Facts .. legendary eh? You may think I am but no I am not not at all. Thanks for the support.

kaat
kaat
10 years ago

“Currently, the District’s employee health benefits package costs the district approximately $20,000 for a family annual coverage.” When I see district employees kids getting braces for practically “free” (low cost of course) b/c of these benefits while the rest of us are paying $3,000 to $10,000 out-of-pocket for our children’s… Read more »

Heidi
Heidi
10 years ago
Reply to  kaat

kaat, It is unfortunate that in trying to make your point you have identified a benefit for MUSD employees (orthodontic coverage) that does not exist. I am an employee of the district and currently have three children in braces. If, in fact, my health insurance covers orthodontic care, please tell… Read more »

kaat
kaat
10 years ago
Reply to  Heidi

Heidi – it was a district employee that told me about the benefit….so maybe there is coverage. I do not tend to throw out misinformation…what would the point be to that when district employees read this comment section? Perhaps you are going to a different orthodontist? Double check you plan… Read more »

Trouble
Trouble
10 years ago
Reply to  kaat

Kaat- I don’t see anything wrong with the regular employees getting good coverage. It’s the top few that make 20 times that of a normal employee that has ruined the balance in our economy . Plus I doubt their insurance is free like it used to be.

Big AL
Big AL
10 years ago
Reply to  Trouble

It never was free, it was low cost .. they still have to pay half of it .. or it might be more than half by now, I’m sure. and pay a deductable and all. Premiums are deducted out of their pay checks, those big fat pay checks that they… Read more »

kaat
kaat
10 years ago
Reply to  Trouble

I think it’s the $20, 000/year per district employee family number that is shocking, regardless of their income. That is like adding $20,000 to each district employees’ income….it’s a cash benefit. It’s easy to forget was it is like for non-government employees in the workplace – those without car allowances… Read more »

Big AL
Big AL
10 years ago
Reply to  kaat

So where did you come up with that number, I find it hard to believe that amount is an annual amount, maybe if a person family or family member incured that that because of an illness or injury or multiple events?

kaat
kaat
10 years ago
Reply to  Big AL

Big Al – the $20,000 number is from the above article: “The Spiraling Cost of Benefits Currently, the District’s employee health benefits package costs the district approximately $20,000 for a family annual coverage. ”At a time when this nation, state and our region face record unemployment numbers, it is imprudent… Read more »

JeanGenie
JeanGenie
10 years ago
Reply to  kaat

I don’t know what its like now but 20 years ago Inyo County had a contract with Dr. Lowthorp and we paid approximately half of the regular cost of braces. I don’t believe this was because the county paid Dr. Lowthorp or any type of premium.