Happy Tuesday to SKEA members and other weteachsouthkitsap blog readers. Our bargaining team is continuing to prepare carefully for tomorrow – the first of six scheduled bargaining dates – to negotiate with South Kitsap School District.
Meanwhile . . . there are many details to share. Before sharing, here are two important dates for you:
Wednesday, Aug. 21
There is a school board meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 21 at 6 p.m. at the South Kitsap District Office. Please show your support for the bargaining team by showing up and wearing RED . This is our last time to talk with board members before our next very important date, Aug. 26.
Monday, Aug. 26
We have a critical General Membership Meeting on Monday, Aug. 26 scheduled for 4:30 p.m. in SKHS auditorium. At this meeting, we will take action on the motion we passed in May which said: Does the SKEA membership approve a vote to set a General Membership Meeting on Aug. 26, 2013 to take a vote to go on strike if there is no recommendation by the bargaining committee to approve the contract?
Now, onto the details
SKEA members (and many other employees) received an email letter from Supt. Michelle Reid. We are pleased that the superintendent is communicating with us. We felt a lot of questions we had last year went unanswered and we are pleased the tone is different this year.
However, we disagree with many of the points stated in the letter. The short version is this:
• The 61.3 positions that were eliminated reduced the district costs by $4.8 million.
• The portion of the new state money that is “designated” (as Supt. Reid says) actually frees up other district money that would otherwise have gone to those “designated” purposes.
• With new money coming from the state and levy, South Kitsap has more than enough to keep class sizes reasonable, eliminate split classes, and, have a robust fund balance.
• The district is receiving $1.9 million in new levy money plus nearly $94,000 more in new Local Effort Assistance (LEA) – a levy equalization payment based on need due to imbalances between districts in property assessments.
The longer version, for those of you who like facts and figures, is this:
In the letter, Supt. Reid says that the elimination of the 61.3 positions is not a savings for the district. Our view is that the district spent that money last year. With the elimination of the positions, they are not spending that money this year. That is a $4.8 million savings to the district.
The letter mentions that all but 15 of the people who were laid off have been rehired. Those people have filled the spots for those who retired or left for other reasons. While we are pleased that our members are being recalled, we are highly concerned about our overcrowded classes. The 61.3 positions, as it currently stands, have not been filled (except for one). We are not sure what 22 positions are referred to in the letter but, by our calculations, they have absolutely not YET been restored.
The letter refers to the additional $4.8 million from the state – many of those dollars designated for specific uses. The district spends money on salaries, special ed, transportation, bi-lingual ed, and so on. Now that the state is sending new money for all of these programs, the district can use the money they already had in the coffers for other items. We believe that some of that money must go to keeping our secondary class sizes reasonable and to eliminating split classes at the elementary level.
The South Kitsap School Board has directed our new superintendent to use the preferred staffing level at the secondary level which will result in:
• Staffing at an average of four more students per class than what we had last year;
• Adding more students will create an unsafe learning environment and tax our students when there is enough money to create a healthy fund balance and restore the eliminated positions so that our class sizes remain the same; and
• Packing more students into our classes is not the answer.
We have a dispute about what the fiscal consultant said at the last board meeting. We will send the transcript from that meeting to you on your home emails (so if we don’t have your home email, send it to: firstname.lastname@example.org). We certainly do not want to get into a scrape about the financial consultants – both of whom we believe created a very solid report which will help keep South Kitsap School District on solid financial ground. The report did not consider the new monies that have come in to South Kitsap for the coming year. We asked Debra Aungst clarifying questions to get her opinion. It was not our intention to put her in a difficult spot – but to find out if she genuinely saw a need for South Kitsap to have a reduction in force of 61.3 positions.
Finally, toward the end of the letter, Supt. Reid says that Debra Aungst stated that in observing the 2013-14 budget, as written, it is now balanced. One question that begs answering is this: How could an elimination of 61.3 positions have been necessary, when the budget shows that the district only plans to remove 40 positions? How is that balanced? Reid further asserts in her letter that, “A balanced budget indicates to her (Aungst) the reduction in positions is producing a balanced budget and makes fiscal sense.” Hmmm. The budget shows that there is a budgeted increase of $5.5 million – more than double – what they spent last year in supplies and materials. The fiscal consultant suggested, in her report, that the district increase its ending fund balance to five percent over a three year period. The way the budget currently stands, it will increase the ending fund balance to far more than five percent (more than twice as much this year) in a one-year period. We have other questions. We’ll keep you posted.