School district goes into another set of negotiations | SierraSun.com

School district goes into another set of negotiations

Christine Stanley
Sierra Sun

The negotiating committee for the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District board didn’t have long to rest after teacher contract negotiations came to a close last month.

Next in line for a pay increase are more than 200 other union members, and they are growing increasingly impatient with the wait.

The California State Employees Association (CSEA) includes the district’s bus drivers, custodians, maintenance workers and other non-certificated employees. They are asking for an 8 percent increase to their pay scale, a different approach than the teachers’ request for a cost of living increase, which is paid to the district by the state and is recalculated annually.

“We don’t feel like we are properly compensated for our work, so we are asking for a raise in the pay scale,” said Vince Deveney, vehicle service worker and CSEA president. “If you don’t raise the pay scale, you can’t attract people, and we’re having a hell of a time doing that.”

As it was with teacher negotiations, the district is being slow and meticulous in its response to the request. School budgets are difficult to wrestle with because they are based on trends and guesses, according to district officials. As a basic-aid district, one that pulls revenue from property taxes, Tahoe Truckee Unified doesn’t see hard numbers until well after taxes are filed.

“We look at what the tax trends have been over the years, and hopefully all of the predictions that we’ve made are on target,” said Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Jo Wilson. “But who knew that gas prices were going to go up? Who knows what our winter is going to bring?

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“We are negotiating again before the money is in, and we cannot make an agreement with anyone that would jeopardize the budget.”

Deveney said that he and his coworkers are frustrated and dissatisfied with the timing of negotiations.

“We had a session in September and will not see the district again until November. We just keep getting put off, and we don’t feel that we are being given sufficient respect and credit,” Deveney said.

Wilson maintained that the district is no less eager to settle than the CSEA and that the primary reason for the delay has been the difficulty in coordinating the schedules of more than a dozen professionals.

Talking percentages, CSEA is asking for more than the teachers received. But according to Deveney, 8 percent for his group will equal out to less than the $1.47 million teacher settlement.

That’s important because, according to assistant superintendent of business Ralph Johnson, a pay increase for non-certificated workers would come from the unappropriated amount of the general fund, a small pool of money that is not restricted by the state.

It’s a workable number, but there isn’t much margin for error.