Dear Benicia Community,
I wanted to take a moment to provide you with a quick update on the negotiations process with our teachers union. This is a yearly process and typically generates a good deal of interest; therefore, I am sharing the following information that I hope you will find useful and informative.
First off, I want to stress the Board Trustees’ fervent commitment to providing a fair and competitive salary and benefit compensation package to our employee groups while also maintaining the long-term fiscal solvency of the school district. We are currently in the negotiations process and are striving, as we always do, to reach a fair and equitable settlement with all employee groups.
Unfortunately, we are experiencing a budget challenge due to a few factors including declining enrollment, ongoing and steep increases in employee pension fund costs, and increased costs in special education. In essence, our expenditures are outpacing our revenues. Throughout the course of this school year, we have been faced with a 2 million dollar budget deficit. This information was shared at previous board meetings this school year. The Governor’s recent budget proposal does contain some good news and if passed, will help to lessen our budget deficit in the short term. However, we still have to make budget cuts equaling at least $800,000.
The Governor is proposing to complete the Local Control Funding Formula (passed in 2013, the Local Control Funding Formula, or LCFF, restructured the way school districts are funded), two years ahead of schedule, which reflects the proposed bump in funding for districts. While this is good news in the short term, the projected 2% to 3% COLA increases starting in the 2019-20 school year do not keep pace with the projected increases in employee pensions, the step and column salary schedule, and health and welfare increases.
On the brighter side, I would like to point out that BUSD continues to provide a competitive total compensation package to our employees, doing so with one of the lowest base revenue limits with comparative districts and those in Solano County. In a recent report from the California Department of Education regarding salaries in Solano County, of which BUSD is part, the beginning and top-end salary steps in BUSD are the second highest in the County. In addition, BUSD has the highest average salary in the County, and remains competitive when including health benefits.
BUSD also enjoys low class sizes at the elementary sites. The average BUSD student contacts at the middle and high schools are very competitive with those in Solano County at 1 to 155, with some districts having as high as 170, 195, and 212 students per teacher.
We have negotiated a total of 17.5% salary increases over the last five (5) years, which equates to an average of a 3.5% increase per year. In addition to negotiated raises, teachers can also receive automatic yearly increases in salary via the step and column salary schedule.
Further, in an effort to continually improve the negotiations process with our bargaining units, particularly as it relates to salary and benefits, we are working with School Services of California regarding the possibility of using a fair share/formula model. Many districts use this model throughout California, and if done well, it can build greater degrees of trust and efficiency when negotiating total compensation. We shared this model with members from the bargaining units and they will begin working with their unit members, giving it more consideration and sharing their thoughts with my office where we will then discuss possible next steps.
In closing, I want to stress, once again, the Trustees’ commitment to providing a fair and competitive salary and benefit compensation package to our employee groups while also maintaining the long-term fiscal solvency of the school district. The bargaining teams will continue to meet, and we are hopeful to reach a settlement in the near future.
Dr. Charles Young
BUSD Superintendent of Schools