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School District, Teachers Ink Cost-Cutting Deal

After nearly a year of negotiations, teachers agree to furlough days and higher contributions toward medical benefits for both new and existing employees, among other belt-tightening moves.

In making their case to voters for a , officials and supporters are banking on a “shared sacrifice” strategy, with every piece of the school community agreeing to do their part as the district combats a .

That strategy took a step forward Wednesday night when the school board approved a new agreement with the Mill Valley Teachers Association featuring a number of concessions that district officials say will save more than $400,000 dollars.

“The bottom line is that we’re all in this together,” said district Superintendent Paul Johnson.

The concessions include two unpaid furlough days during the 2012-2013 school year for every teacher and administrator. District employees are in the midst of separate contract talks and are also expected to agree to furlough days, Johnson said.

The district projects that it will save $200,000 from the two furlough days. Teachers  under a deal reached in February 2011, and the new reductions amount to a 1.1 percent pay cut. The district will save an additional $227,000 from salary reductions related to stipends teachers receive for off-site meetings and conferences, particularly special education teachers. For some special education teachers, that reductions is as high as $4,000 to $5,000, Johnson said. The new deal calls for no salary increases through the 2012-2013 school year.

“It is important that all facets of our community come forward to preserve the quality of education that the students of Mill Valley deserve,” said Kim Kirley, a kindergarten teacher at and the co-chair of the Mill Valley Teachers Association. “We look forward to working collaboratively towards that common goal.”

Teachers also agreed to pay a higher percentage of the rising costs of medical coverage. New teachers – the district plans to hire 15 new teachers next year to accommodate  – would pay 60 percent of the difference between current "employee plus one" medical premiums and family medical coverage premiums for next year. That shift could have some new teachers paying as much as $3,000 more for their medical benefits and is expected to save the district at least $40,000, Johnson said.

Current employees with family health coverage will pick up as much as 35 percent of that differential under the new deal, up to four times more than teachers pay in the current year.

“This is a major realignment of health benefits coverage,” Johnson said.

In exchange for those concessions for 2012-2013, the teachers will receive a one-time payment of between $248 and $497 to help pay for rising medical premiums during the current year.

The cuts come in addition to to make annual contributions into a retiree medical benefit trust. Teachers now pay $350 per year into a retiree medical benefit trust, while classified employees pay $150 per year. That shift provided relief from what district officials called “a significant unfunded liability” for retiree medical benefits. Teachers also agreed last year to increase the number of years of service required to receive retirement benefits from 10 to 20 years.

The teacher concessions are the latest notch in the district's strategy to present a united front to voters in November, hoping to make a case that every part of the local schools community is stepping up as the district seeks to convince voters to pass a on top of the existing $731 parcel tax.

With 82 percent of district voters not having a student in one of the district’s six schools, campaign officials hope to make it clear that all school-related groups are doing their part and that the parcel tax is vital to retaining local control over school funding. That effort is bolstered by yet another increased commitment from , this time to $2.7 million and including physical education in addition to all arts education and funding for technology programs. The Mill Valley Council of PTAs has agreed to raise an additional $60 per student commitment from for materials and supplies for kindergarten through fifth grade, and $67 per student in sixth through eighth grade.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story misstated the source of the $227,000 in savings, as well as the specific medical benefit concessions teachers made under the new agreement.

Jim Welte May 21, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Citizen: As indicated in the note at the bottom of the article, the article was changed once to reflect that the $200,000 was from the furloughs for teachers and administrators, while the $227,000 came from the stipend-based reductions for teachers. No additional changes were made to the article. If you have additional questions or concerns about the story, please let me know. Thanks.
Scott May 21, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Interesting math: "Teachers received a 1 percent pay increase under a deal reached in February 2011, and the stipend reductions amount to a 1.1 percent pay cut, as high as $4,000 to $5,000 per teacher, Johnson said." What exactly are teachers earning that a 1.1% pay cut amounts to $4,000 - $5,000 per teacher? Did anyone validate or question this data? Doubtful otherwise there'd be a different discussion going on and focussed around the $400,000 - $500,000 salaries this implies teachers are making. I suspect this is an outlier case reported to imply it's the norm in an effort to sway opinion. But we don't really know because there doesn't seem to have been any questioning of the data, or at least none that was reported.
Magoo May 22, 2012 at 03:37 PM
I agree. Are all these calculations available on a website somewhere?. Also the agreement between the school district and the teachers? The article keeps using "paying as much as". How about also saying "paying as little as".
Jim Welte May 24, 2012 at 12:04 AM
Scott: Apologies for the confusion on the stipend reduction. The 1.1% pay cut is from the furloughs, while the $4,000 to $5,000 stipend-related reduction is for some special education teachers whose per diems were cut. Those figures - the 1.1% and the $4k-$5k - are completely unrelated and I apologize for appearing to connect the two. I hope that helps. I have also attached the agreement to this article for reference.
Rico May 24, 2012 at 12:35 AM
I really don't know how much teachers in the MVSD make now, but a few years ago I read that your average elementary school teacher in the MVSD earns around $47,000 per year, about $23.50 per hour. I sure hope that they earn more than that now, because the commuting costs and travel time costs are rising .

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