Denair school district to consider budget action

naustin@modbee.comOctober 23, 2013 

— Denair Unified trustees will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday to vote on a procedural step toward a state takeover if the district cannot rein in salaries and cover its bills for the year.

The vote technically will be to seek a waiver of a budget review committee now that the district’s budget has been rejected as unworkable. The agenda report says the only way to bring the district’s finances into line is to reach a deal with its teachers – a negotiations process, not a budgeting one.

The Denair Unified Teachers Association, however, said negotiations remain stalled. “Mediation is over; we are going to fact finding,” said President Barry Cole. Fact finding is part of the formal resolution of school district negotiations at impasse.

“We offered enough concessions to fix our fiscal issues, but they were turned down by the district,” Cole said. Pointing to tens of thousands of dollars being approved for legal fees, he added, “I can’t help but think that the longer this goes on, the more money attorneys will be making.”

The teachers and the district disagree about how much money is needed to bring the district back into the black and repay $1.3million it borrowed from the Stanislaus County Office of Education to pay last year’s bills.

Denair Unified has lost a large number of students since the recession began but did not lay off staff or cut salaries as state funding declined. A year ago, the county office sounded the alarm that the district could not meet its obligations.

Since then, it has cut support staff and trimmed their salaries. But regulatory requirements prevented laying off teachers midyear, and this year’s layoffs are being challenged. But at least a dozen teachers have quit in the past few months, clouding the financial picture.

Also on the agenda is a plan for implementing the state’s common core curriculum, using $300,000 in state funding specifically for that effort. Trustees also will vote on routine matters, including creation of job descriptions for a combination bus driver/mechanic/utility worker and a food-service coordinator.

Trustees will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Denair Middle School Coyote Center, 3701 Lester Road.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.

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