Dear Bonsall School Community,
The District has received several requests to address the recent negotiation tactics that have become more aggressive as the Bonsall Teachers’ Association (BTA) is expressing dissatisfaction with the Bonsall Unified School District (BUSD) for not offering a salary schedule increase yet this year. While negative optics are commonly used by unions to pressure management for an increase on the salary schedule, such tactics only erode the trust relationship through deceptive misinformation and displays of frustration, like signs on cars. This blog entry will provide an understanding of the why behind the District needing more time before an offer can be made, because there are many contributing factors to the District’s desire to wait until the long-term impact is more evident.
A basic contributing factor is our Guiding Principles that can be viewed on our website. They begin with a focus on students, then the trust relationship with you, the school community. The fourth principle seeks to “Protect the fiscal security of the district” and the fifth, to “Provide, to the extent possible, equitable salaries and working conditions for all employees”. Following these principles has helped our District to continuously improve in meeting our purpose of “Academic excellence and support for all students to be highly competitive in their chosen career path and college”.
The District must be cognizant of Governor Brown’s projected 2017-18 budget that warned of anticipated drops in revenue and even the possibility of a deferment of some revenue into next year. Considering this was how the deep cuts began during the most recent recession, we are wary of tough times ahead. However, we also know that Governor Brown also projected dire budgets in the last couple of years and there ultimately wound up being extra funds passed on to school districts as “one time” money. One time money is like a bonus; whereas, ongoing costs like the salary schedule are recurring and, in some cases, compounding. We used those one time funds mainly for technology and paying teachers for extra days of training. We are looking forward to May 10, and the Governor’s Revised Budget, as well as the reaction from legislators who know he is heading into his last year. Included in this hazy funding picture are the cuts anticipated from the Federal education budget.
An additional factor to consider is total compensation for teachers. Most people don’t realize teachers receive automatic raises called “step and column”, as well as increases in pension and health benefits. “Step” is an automatic increase in salary for continued service; the more years you teach, the more money you receive until, on Bonsall’s salary schedule, you reach thirty years of service. “Column” is an automatic increase to a teacher’s salary for college classes taken past their degree. In the current school year (2016-17), all of these automatic raises totaled 4.03% – a cost to the district of approximately $432,306. It might not be a raise on the salary schedule, but it is a raise. Our district also pays Other than Pension Employee Benefits (OPEB) such as health benefits for retired employees until they turn sixty-five years old costing about $100,000 annually.
Another significant factor is that last year the District was able to give employees about 10% in total compensation, and that ongoing cost to the District was an additional $996,876. The District truly believes Bonsall has many great teachers and wants to pay them accordingly, consistently trying to reach the middle third of the County comparisons of teacher salaries. We do that even though we are in the bottom third of funding per student revenues. Also, when compared to other small school districts in the County we are fourth out of fifteen with only Rancho Santa Fe, Fallbrook High, and Cardiff paying more to their teachers. However, our budget projections indicate we are moving into our reserve funds and will be deficit-spending in the next few years. This year I assured the teachers we would not be laying them off even though they are hearing of teacher layoffs at many other districts in our county.
Lastly, but not insignificant, is the reality that the State’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is reaching a plateau since school districts have been paid back most of what was cut during the recession. Unions realize this and are using aggressive tactics to raise ongoing salaries before the revenue is depleted. It is disappointing to see negative strategies being used in Bonsall after so many years where the trust relationship brought us through the hard times.
Taking all of these factors into consideration, it is prudent to wait and see what future budget conditions will be; there are several moving pieces affecting the future of Bonsall Unified’s funding and we want to position ourselves to take advantage of any opportunity to increase student learning and provide better salaries for our deserving teachers.
Justin Cunningham Ed. D.