LONG BEACH — Bargaining agreements between the Ocean Beach School District and classified staff have been officially approved, resulting in employee pay increases for several employees.
Agreements were reached on Aug. 30 between the district and the Classified Public Employees Association and Public School Employees Association. The district reached tentative agreements on Aug. 22 but had been waiting for signed letters of understanding and the vote of the two associations.
Custodians, paraprofessionals, food service personnel and maintenance workers agreed to a 13 percent pay increase. Through a statewide comparison, the district found employees in these positions were below the state average pay for similar positions.
When comparing classified staff to other districts in the state, the district’s employees were typically in the 30th to 40th percentiles. Starting pay for classified staff was around the 25th percentile, interim Superintendent Scott Fenter said.
Bus drivers and bus driver trainers agreed to a 9 percent pay increase. Before the pay increase, bus drivers and trainers were around the 50th percentile for position pay of all school districts in the state, Fenter said.
The district’s mechanic agreed to a 12 percent pay increase. The district’s mechanic was at the 20th percentile in comparison to other district mechanics in the state.
All pay increase agreements are one-year agreements. The sustainability of the agreed-upon salaries for all groups may face difficulty in future years, Fenter said.
A budget study group will be created this year to assist in evaluating the district’s future financial stability. The group will include Fenter, two school board members, a few principals, union representatives, and the district’s business manager and human resources manager.
The group will meet first this month to make sure all members understand budget details. Subsequent meetings will focus on salary expenditures, supplemental contracts, and supplies and services, Fenter said.
The group will compare district finances to the state’s model. Another concern of the group will addressing the district’s finances in light of Hilltop Middle School being crowded, Fenter said.
School districts across the state are in negotiations in response to the 2012 McCleary state Supreme Court decision, which deemed the state’s education-funding efforts insufficient. Since the decision, billions more state dollars have been approved to fund schools, including $2 billion for teacher salaries.
In response, OBSD agreed in June to a 21.1 percent salary increase for local teachers, catching up for years following the 2008 Great Recession when no cost-of-living increases were provided. However, no raises were given to classified staff, and former Superintendent Jenny Risner began implementation of reduction-in-force layoffs for staff. That RIF was rescinded by current Superintendent Fenter and the Ocean Beach School District Board of Directors.
Determining how to distribute the $2 billion provided statewide by the Legislature is threatening and delaying the start of the school year in several districts, including Longview.
The legislature didn’t provide clear guidelines for use of McCleary funds, which has made negotiations throughout the state, including Ocean Beach negotiations, “challenging beyond what they needed to be,” Fenter said.
Local levies limited
The increase in salary funding was accompanied by a decrease in local levy funding. The legislature restricted use of levy dollars to enrichment activities in response to funds being used to supplement underfunded state salaries.
It is difficult to assess this impact at this time, with the short time span of the McCleary funding roll-out, time-consuming negotiations, and the work to reflect all of this in the budget that had to be approved before negotiations were completed.
“[It’s] truly a very challenging year for schools in a time that could have been smooth, had the legislature taken time to lay out a plan for salaries, rather than leave all districts in a lurch to wrestle with it through negotiations,” Fenter said. “They created a perfect storm for turmoil and concern.”
Because the district was addressing McCleary funds, its only bargaining item this year was salaries, Fenter said. The school board will finalize agreements at its September board meeting.
“On a positive note, I am so honored to be working with such dedicated teachers, administrators, and classified employees who truly care about the student learning and well-being of our peninsula youth,” Fenter said.