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Hart seeks budget balance, proposes larger classes, fewer work days, pay cuts

District announces plan on eve of negotiations with teachers

Posted: April 3, 2009 12:35 a.m.
Updated: April 3, 2009 10:00 a.m.
 

A proposal that would increase class sizes and reduce the number of work days was presented to the Hart District Teachers Association Wednesday by William S. Hart Union High School District officials.

The proposal, which would cover the 2009-10 school year, is seen as a way to meet the district’s projected $27 million budget shortfall over the next three years.

The proposal comes as negotiations between the district and the teacher’s association, which represents more than 1,000 Hart district teachers, are set to begin.

“Our association is working on crafting our proposal and that will probably be presented to the district mid-April,” Leslie Littman, president of the Hart District Teachers Association, said Thursday.

Littman would not comment specifically on the district’s proposal.

“That’s going to happen at the bargaining table,” she said.

The district anticipates a $27 million budget deficit over the next three years, Sue Guthrie, chief financial officer for the district, said Thursday.

The Hart district’s proposal to the teachers allows the district to close the deficit by $15 million, she said.

“Considering that our budget is 85-percent comprised of salaries and benefits, there is really no other discretionary funds we can tap into to come up with those funds,” Guthrie said.

A combination of cuts to the classified, teacher and management groups would allow the district to meet its goal of a balanced budget, Guthrie said.

Proposals to the classified organization and management group are still in the works, she said.

The district’s goal with the forthcoming negotiations is to balance the budget, save jobs and maintain programs while ensuring that any cuts are shared equally among employees in the district, Guthrie said.

The district’s proposal to the Hart District Teachers Association would, among other things:

  • Establish a health-benefit cap of $10,000 per employee.
  • Increase class size by one student.
  • Establish a 0.4-percent pay cut.
  • Reduce the work year by three unpaid days. The days would be two professional development days in August that take place before school starts, and one February professional development day.
  • Allow teachers to voluntarily accept a sixth-period teaching position.

The proposal comes as the Hart district sent 96 pink slips to teachers and counselors in March.

However, the district is offering a retirement incentive program that it hopes will encourage teachers with seniority to retire, offsetting the number of actual layoff notices sent in May.

“We’re hopeful that we won’t need any layoffs at all,” Guthrie said.

The state budget includes $11.6 billion in cuts to the public education budget over the next 15 months, which has forced school districts in the Santa Clarita Valley and beyond to issue layoff notices to teachers and staff members and consider increasing class sizes to meet forthcoming million-dollar budget deficits.

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