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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.

Lippy May 17, 2012 at 04:18 PM
It's disgusting and embarrassing that our community's teachers get paid so little and that School Districts in general are seen ripe budget-balancing targets. Let me put this in your head, America: You either pay now (through taxes and community bond measures) or pay later (at the point of a gun on the street) for our childrens' welfare. We're all in this together. Taxes are the DUES we pay to live in this country. Be patriotic an pay your dues. You don't want to pay your FAIR share? The door (airport) is right over there.
Magoo May 17, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Why don't you be patriotic and join the military, something I have already done.
russellcraig May 17, 2012 at 04:47 PM
If ONLY we'd passed even more parcel taxes for our schools: Max Wade would certainly have chosen a different career path. And what a frightening future in store for us indeed: ill-educated former Mill Valley schools students pointing guns in our faces. Please, please let me pay my patriotic fair share to Mill Valley Schools to avert this inevitable threat! Hang on a second...just checked my current tax bill...it looks like I'm already contributing a very generous (and patriotic) fair share.
Magoo May 17, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Yes. Anybody who doesn't get a silver-spooned education is going to be a hoodlum. In today's paper other schools districts are asking for reasonable parcel taxes, 48, 67. Plastic spoons will work just fine.
Lippy May 17, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Russell - it sounds like you're paying your taxes under duress. That's NOT patriotic. "Citizen" - Predictable how you equate the military with Patriotism. It's not just a given that joining the military makes one patriotic any more than criticizing the military makes one UNpatriotic. What is definitely against the principles that this country was founded on is a knee-jerk reaction that MANY people have against paying a modicum of tax dollars to sustain a way of life that they (strangely) feel entitled to. NEWS FLASH: That mythical "Amercian Way of Life" was paid for in 1950's tax rates of up to 90%. You want cleanliness and safety -- you gonna PAY for it, Bubby..
MarinT May 17, 2012 at 06:36 PM
To pro parcel tax people: MV residents Already Agreed to increased payments. Our Measure “A” tax increases 5% (compounded year over year): From the 2008 Ballot:”The Mill Valley School District will be authorized to levy a special tax increasing its existing tax by $193 to $663.38 beginning July 1, 2009, extending the tax for an additional four years to the new expiration date of June 30, 2018, with 5% annual rate increases beginning June 1, 2010..”. This parcel tax was $470 in 2008. This parcel tax is already authorized to be $806 in 2013. Is this not an already nice and reasonable commitment? Since “A” was passed we also took on Measure C and the Tam Union modernization assessments. What we need to do is modify Measure C - tamp down the building plans by $5 to $10 million (from $59 million) and add an assessment that pays for teachers and CSEA pay. The draw against the tax-base needs to be cash flow neutral. That means a vote on a measure that does two things; 1) Modifies Measure C to reduce that assessment and simultaneously, 2) Authorize a new assessment that help fund non-management employee pay. Spend the funds already authorized, but re-prioritize that funding in favor of staff.
Lippy May 17, 2012 at 06:52 PM
MarinT - I agree with you about the existing payments mandated by Measure "A", but the Federal & State funding for our public schools keeps getting cut. THIS is why local communities need to keep raising $$ to supplement local education. I do like your suggestion about modifying Measure C. I will investigate. Thanks.
Heather May 17, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Okay, I know this article isn't about the Evergreen sidewalk, but I just have to ask: why do sidewalk opponents always refer to Homestead Valley as "semi-rural"? It runs along Miller Avenue, one of the busiest commercial streets in Mill Valley. Its lots are no bigger than those in Sycamore, which is equally close to Miller. There's no more livestock in Homestead than there is anywhere else in town. So I've just never understood that argument.
Heather May 17, 2012 at 07:27 PM
It's basically the negative version of trickle-down economics. When the federal government starts cutting, it usually says let's leave it to the states -- if they want funding, they can fund it on a local level. Then the states, facing budget deficits because of reduced federal funding, say hey, let's leave it to the counties and the school districts -- if they want to fund it they can pony up. So then the districts, when they lose funding from the state, have to go hat in hand to the citizens to fill the gap. That's what's happening here. But look at it this way: if the state paid for what we need, we'd be writing our checks to them in the form of higher taxes. This way, at least your money stays local, and supports our community schools.
Magoo May 17, 2012 at 07:50 PM
You have to ask Stone & Youngberg how much of the $59 in bonds have yet to be issued. Was it worded "increase".? "Compounded" is the most accurate term, but the school district likes to use the inaccurate term "adjustment" which if you think about that term can mean going down and as well as up.
Scott May 17, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Has anyone read through the budget? I have and while they don't show prior year comparisons (which is a serious question itself and one that raises suspicions) their mid-year revision showed an INCREASE in projected revenues of $1 million. That came with an INCREASE in projected expenses of $1.5 million. The expense increase came mostly from a tripling of the "books and supplies" budget from $500k to $1.5 million. There needs to be a lot more research done on this to really understand what's going on, but at a basic level, this does not appear to be sound financial management. Before I agree to any more taxes, I need to know my government is acting as prudent stewards of my money. I am far from convinced that they are.
Lippy May 17, 2012 at 08:30 PM
It's semi-rural precisely BECAUSE there are no sidewalks. Also note that though Evergreen is the entry into Homestead, MANY lots further back in the Valley are certainly much larger than the tiny lots in Tamalpais Park (and the adjacent Sycamore Park). Also don't discount the open space which rings the top of Homestead Valley. This was a local resident-driven bond measure to ensure continued rural atmosphere in the bucolic valley. All of these facts are factors in the Residents' description of their neighborhood as "semi-rural" (the definition of which, BTW encompasses more than mere livestock -- though we DO have 3+ goats,numerous chickens, and a pig! ) Match THAT, Sycamore Park! :>
Jim Welte May 17, 2012 at 09:26 PM
I'd like to add some clarity to the $4,000 to $5,000 salary reductions for some teachers, as it was misstated in an earlier version of this story. Those figures are related to stipend reductions for teachers, particularly special ed teachers, for off-site activities and those $4k-$5k figures are only for some teachers. Apologies for confusion.
Lippy May 17, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Fair enough, Scott. But do you realize that for the past 10+ years, Mill Valley teachers have been buying school supplies for their classrooms THEMSELVES?!? Perhaps this increase was the first step in the District being able to take BACK some of that responsibility. I'm not being an apologist for the District, here... but we must all look at the history and what the Bush years (AND their legacy) has left us with -- which is a BIG NEGATIVE hole.
rik May 18, 2012 at 12:40 AM
May I suggest that anyone who wants to actually become informed about the District's budget predicament go to www.mvschools.org, and/or http://www.schooladvocates.org/. There is a great deal of information about the work the District does as well as background information on the budget. After spending, say, an hour getting up to speed, if it is then still necessary to vent your spleens about School Board conspiracies, cashmere sweater wearing students, Mercedes driving parents, "wealthy agendas," or other absurdities, then have at it. What we really could use instead, however, is a sober minded, well informed town that is willing to make appropriate (I repeat, appropriate) sacrifices on behalf of public education. Furthermore, for the rabid dogs among us who wish to lash out at every governmental malfeasance, may I suggest "Citizens for Sustainable Pension Plans" http://marincountypensions.com/. The real threat to our citizenry's economic well being is the public pension and entitlement time bomb coursing through our County (and every other). Please use your anti-tax, anti-government energies there where it could possibly do some real good. In the meantime, let's educate our 5-14 year old kids as best we can. They are going to need every shred of good sense they can find when they inherit the complete fiscal mess we Baby Boomers leave behind.
Rico May 18, 2012 at 02:08 AM
Lippy, Did you know that Homestead Valley used to be all private ? It was a private Rancho, with gates and fences. The big difference now is that Homestead Valley is not in the City of Mill Valley, and most people like it that way, semi-rural.
Rico May 18, 2012 at 02:17 AM
rik, I will not support any additional taxes for any education programs or school districts until the SMART train tax and High Speed Rail taxes are rescinded and the train projects are scrapped for good. I think that many schools of all types need some help, but I will continue to refuse any more taxes for anything if the train taxes are allowed to continue.
Desert Rat May 18, 2012 at 03:16 AM
I will not vote for any thing, person, animal or vegetable of any sort until Homestead Valley is annexed by the City of Mill Valley, or until a choo-choo train comes to my house and picks me up in my pajamas. And if that doesn't happen I may hold my breath until I turn blue in the face.
Bill McGee May 18, 2012 at 06:26 AM
Desert Rat - hilarious post...well done.
Beads of Marin May 18, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Disclaimer: I own a small business in town which I’m sure will benefit if the following happens on a greater scale. Some of the above discussion focused on the need for additional tax revenue so more is available for public schools. A simple way to do that is shopping locally, where most of the sales tax collected stays locally. Based on data collected by The 3/50 Project, http://www.the350project.net/home.html out of every $100 spent locally $68 come back to the community; with a national chain it goes down to $43, and with online purchases that number becomes a big 0. This does not say to stay away from the various chains we have in town or to never shop online, it’s more about the concept and understanding the power of one’s wallet when it’s opened locally and to do so on a regular basis and not just during the holiday season. Yes, there will still be budget issues and not all of these dollars go directly to schools—many other local services also benefit, but opening our wallets locally go a long way toward helping services the local community expects, such as funding public education.
Desert Rat May 18, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Charuz makes a great point. I don't own a local business, but just like we get the politicians we deserve, we get the businesses we deserve. Every time you buy something online and don't pay sales tax you are supporting a company that doesn't care about your community at the expense of one that does, which in the end hurts you and your community. And legally, you are still required to pay that sales tax, even though that online retailer isn't charging you. It's called a 'Use Tax' and you can file and pay it online with the State once a year. Here's more info on what it is and how to do it: http://www.boe.ca.gov/ads/news06.htm And what if you don't pay it? Well, probably nothing, unless maybe if you get audited. But like voting to help fund much needed child education, it's the right thing to do.
Magoo May 19, 2012 at 04:23 PM
You should make the same plea who those have cheated the County by not getting building permit fees when required. That runs rampant as well. Those touting to vote yes on the parcel better not have cheated the County on permit fees.
Mari May 19, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Heather - unincorporated Homestead Valley is located in the Tamalpais Area Community Planning Area, which is designated as "semi-rural" It is set back from Miller Avenue. http://hv94941hearus.blogspot.com/p/tam-plan.html
Mari May 19, 2012 at 05:14 PM
That is a funny post. But at least if we were annexed by Mill Valley, we might have a shot at fair government representation. What we have now is an overworked non-profit club, that can't seem to say no to its private school neighbor. It works for a select few and democracy be damned.
Magoo May 21, 2012 at 04:54 PM
I have to read this article over and over again since the article is being changed again and again. I don't know if the information for the article was given verbally and was written, but there is quite a difference between the 227,000 being a concession by the teachers versus the the admin employees. Now there seems to be no concessions by the admin employees. Part to the medical insurance changes seems to be an accounting trick. On the one hand teachers will have to pay more, but oh wait, let's give them money this year to help pay for their "concession" in the following year. Seems just a shift to make the 2012-2013 (the focus) budget the way they want it.
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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