Dear Benicia Community.
The Board of Trustees would like to thank all of the students, parents, and members of the community who have contacted us to express their support for our teachers during the ongoing labor negotiations. We couldn’t agree more with the sentiments of support for the wonderful job that our teachers do.
We also wanted to thank all of the students, teachers, parents, and members of the community who have contacted us to express their support for Dr. Young in response to recent concerns raised by the teachers’ association at the April 19th Board Meeting. Those accusations were unfounded, unfair and motivated by the current climate of negotiations. Please know that all decisions have been vetted by the Board and the Board is actively engaged in all aspects of the governance of the District. The buck stops with us! And this Board could not be more pleased with the leadership of Dr. Young and his team.
In fulfilling our fiduciary obligations to the District and the taxpayers, we have tried to balance the many competing interests by focusing on these three goals:
1. maintaining and enhancing our high-quality educational program;
2. securing the short and long-term fiscal solvency of the District; and
3. offering a competitive compensation package to all employee groups in order to attract
and retain high-quality employees.
The teachers’ union is currently demanding an additional 5% pay increase this year and an additional 4.25% increase next year. Not including any increases to the classified bargaining unit or management, this would add $3.3 million in ongoing expenses to the District’s budget (or more than 7% of our entire budget.) We have worked hard to look for ways to accommodate these demands, but all paths and suggestions end up requiring layoffs, reductions in critical services and programs and increases in class sizes that we, as your elected representatives, do not believe would be in the best interest of the students.
While we will always wish we could do more for our teachers, we are proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in the last few years. Despite receiving less funding than most districts in the County, we have been able to:
· Provide pay raises of 17.5% over the past 5 years in addition to the annual automatic step
and column salary increases that all but the most-tenured teachers receive;
· Provide one of the highest median salaries in Solano County of $80,588 for a 184 workday
· Attract and retain excellent teachers to Benicia even while other districts report shortages.
Unfortunately, we have accomplished these gains largely by deficit spending and depleting our reserves. As many of you know, we were recently forced to cut approximately $800,000 from our current budget to stay solvent. Budget pressures continue to mount as the State continues to assess increased retirement contributions for our staff in light of its shortfalls and poor planning. This means that future expenses for pay raises will likely have to come at the expense of cuts to staff, programs, and services as we have no means of independently increasing our revenues. Further, there are requirements regarding the allocation of targeted funding sources, including supplemental funding, which is allocated specifically for our English learners, low socio-economic and foster youth to provide increased and improve services to these student groups and not, by Ed. Code, allocated for across the board raises for the same level of service.
While we believe we have been transparent and opened-minded with the teacher’s association, we understand and acknowledge their disappointment. We remain committed to working cooperatively and respectfully with the teachers’ association and honor and appreciate their commitment to our students. With this in mind, we are exploring other, more effective ways, including a fair share formula regarding negotiations as it relates to compensation.
On May 17 th, a three-member, fact-finding panel will convene to consider the demands of the teachers’ association and the challenges faced by the District. During this process, the parties will have an opportunity to discuss possible compromises. If a settlement cannot be reached, the panel will issue a report that will be public and provide an independent view of what is financially possible, what the trade-offs are and independent recommendations as to possible ways to allocate our scarce funds in the best interests of our students. In the event that a settlement is not reached and more drastic actions are taken by the labor union, please know the District will strive to ensure the business of educating our students continues.
We ask for everyone’s patience as we move through the negotiations fact-finding process. We are hopeful this process will clear the air and create a more positive and less polarizing process.
In order to ensure transparency and your continued engagement, we are preparing answers to frequently asked questions to keep everyone informed and will post them as soon as possible.
Diane Ferrucci, Board President
Dear Benicia Community.