TURLOCK -- Teachers and support staff gathered in force to protest the district's demand that they take wage cuts despite higher-than-required reserves.
Sign-wielding employees milled in front of Turlock Unified's board meeting room while trustees conferred in closed session, in part on issues relating to negotiations with its three unions. All three are formally at an impasse.
Lead negotiator for the teachers Jennifer Collins said her team offered to take two or three furlough days rather than a straight salary cut. Support staff negotiator Kyle Harvey said his workers already have taken a 2.5 percent reduction. Both said the real issue is fairness.
At the meeting, trustees adopted a cautionary budget, setting aside $5.6 million out of reserves to weather midyear cuts if voters refuse to pass taxes in November. The district expects to deficit spend about $1 million from reserves even without a vote against the taxes.
The district predicts it will have $11.7 million in reserves at the end of the next fiscal year, even if the tax measures fail.
The budget does not, however, consider the newest school fears. Sonny Da Marto, Turlock superintendent, said districts are being told the state budget, expected Friday, could count preschool funding as part of the Proposition 98 guarantee, further lowering the dollars the state allocates for K-12 education.
Collins said such concerns are not lost on employees. "We agreed with their fat cushion. It just doesn't need to be any fatter," she said.
Turlock is not alone in its bargaining disputes over what's necessary to hold aside in savings. Modesto City Schools is at impasse with its bargaining units. Modesto teachers, too, have protested district insistence on holding reserves as security against state fiscal uncertainties.
Bee staff writer Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2367.