The Mammoth Unified School District issued a press release Thursday stating after months of negotiations with the teachersâ€™ association, it and the Mammoth Education Association have jointly decided to declare impasse in their negotiations.Â
â€śLike all school districts throughout the state, Mammoth Unified has been forced to make deep budget cuts, which significantly compromises its ability to satisfy the teachersâ€™Â requests,â€ť the press release stated.Â Â
â€śBy declaring impasse,Â the state will assign ourÂ districtÂ an objective, informed mediator who will review the partiesâ€™ proposals, listen to the concerns we have with our districtâ€™s budget andâ€”I hopeâ€”help us reach an agreement,â€ť said Rich Boccia, superintendent of schools.Â â€śOur intent is that this process will bring closure to negotiations, as we are running out of time.Â And, given that we are just days from the start of school, I know that our teachers and this community would like to see all of us return our full attention to the students.â€ť
According to the press release, the district was required to present the Mono County Office of Education with a three-year budget on June 30, a budget that was required to accommodate the stateâ€™s fiscal situation, including ongoing cuts to public education.Â
â€śWhen presented to theÂ county, the districtâ€™sÂ budget had to contain all operating and budget projections and showÂ how the district intends to maintain solvencyÂ across three school years.Â
â€śTo help maintain programs and services for students while accommodating these budget cuts, the district has a reserve of 29 percent.Â Given the projected funding cuts to education andÂ the districtâ€™sÂ estimated operational costs, without structural changes being made to the manner in which we provide services, the districtâ€™s reserve will be reduced to 11 percent by the 2013-14 school year, and will show a negative 3 percent balance by 2014-15 school year, the third year out,â€ť the press release stated.
ThisÂ reserveÂ is creating a negotiations sticking point.
â€śI understand that a 29 percent reserve sounds like a pot of gold, but theÂ simple truth is that these funds would barely cover four months of the districtâ€™s operational costs,â€ť said Boccia.Â â€śI would be a failed leader if I allowed the district to allocate this finite amount of money to an ongoing expense, such as employeesâ€™ benefits or salaries.â€ť
According to the release, Ron Bennett, President and CEO of School Services of California, the leader in California school finance, has informed the district that because Mammoth Unified is a small basic aid district, it should have a 33 to 38 percent reserve, to address potential financial shortfalls.
â€śPretending that you can cover an ongoing cost with one-time money would be a sure way to devastate this district andÂ our community, whoÂ trust us to manage their tax dollars prudently and with an eye on our shared mission, which is service to students.â€ť
The districtâ€™s total annual operating budgetÂ is approximately $12,000,000, according to the press release. It must identify $800,000 in cuts for the 2012-13Â year, plusÂ an additional $500,000 if the Governorâ€™s November tax initiative fails. Further, the district is looking at future deficits of $1,100,000 in 2013-14 and $1,800,000 in 2014-15.
TheÂ Board of Education has set forth two key guiding points for negotiations.Â First,Â theyÂ believeÂ that these cuts must be a shared responsibility across the entire organization. Second, the districtÂ must notÂ dismiss or marginalizeÂ its responsibility to provideÂ all students with programs that will help ensure that they can compete in the 21st century.
To the first point, the Board of Education took action to reduce classified positions, including custodial, maintenance, food services and instructional aides, by $165,000 (see P.1). Â Additionally, the district has achieved $86,000 through attrition.Â
According to the press release, the district is asking for the teachersâ€™ union to assist in addressing the budget shortfalls in the form of furloughs and a health benefits cap.Â And to the second point, the district is striving to help maintain positions, programs, and services to meet the needs of students and help protect jobs.
Currently, the districtâ€™s employee health benefits package costs the district approximately $20,000 for a family annual coverage. Â
â€śAt a time when this nation, state and our region face record unemployment numbers, it is imprudent to use our diminishing budgets to cover increasing benefits costs,â€ť Boccia said. â€śThis budget line item must be contained, there is no reasonable business alternative.
â€śEmployee frustration and anxiety over these discussions is understandable,â€ť he said.Â â€śEveryone in education works so hard to meet the needs of our kids; however, we did not create this situation.Â The stateâ€™s dire fiscal situation has placed the ugly reality of budget cuts on the doorstep of fire and police departments, hospitals and schools and universities throughout the state.Â We did not create this bad economy, but we are certainly left with the responsibility of helping to clean it up.â€ť