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Auburn school district could still face mid-year cuts

Teacher, parent glad to be rid of furlough days
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Despite concerns of possible mid-year cuts, the Auburn Union School District board approved car allowances and cell phone stipends for the upcoming year. A two-year furlough agreement has also ended, which means teacher, staff and administrator salaries will increase to their pre-furlough amount. District officials expressed relief that the state’s new budget doesn’t include the extreme cuts to education that were projected, but they are still feeling “cautiously optimistic” about its future. Salaries, stipends and allowances At a special board meeting Wednesday night, the district’s board of trustees approved the car allowances, cell phone stipends and confidential and management salary schedule for its confidential and management employees. According to Superintendent Michele Schuetz car allowances are only for school principals and are $600 a year. Cell phone stipends range from $300 to $900 a year depending on the employee’s position. The total budgeted amount for this year is $6,000 for cell phone stipends and $2,400 for car allowances. The approved salaries for teachers range annually from $32,714 to $76,496 depending on what class of employment the teacher is in, how many years he or she has been working for the district and what degree and additional school units they hold, according to Schuetz. According to district documents, classified employees, such as aides, crossing guards, cooks, library technicians and custodians are paid hourly and range from $9.74 an hour to $28.41 an hour depending on their positions and the step of pay there are in. Management and confidential employees, besides Schuetz and the district’s chief business official, Monica Williams, have an annual salary range of $36,344 to $93,430 depending on their positions and step of pay, according to district documents. Schuetz has an annual base salary of $109,710. The district also pays $7,540 annually for her health benefits, $900 for her cell phone allowance and $75.60 annually for her life insurance policy. Board members are not taking stipends or health benefits like they have in the past, Schuetz said. Salaries no longer include cuts for furlough days, because union agreements to include the furlough days in two school years have sunset, Schuetz said. “It was a negotiated item, and it was an agreement with the different associations that it would be for two years,” she said. “So, any other or continuing reductions would have to be negotiated, because two years ago that was the agreement.” New labor negotiations will begin after the new school year starts, Schuetz said. Rob Haswell, who has two children in the district and was the chairman of Citizens for Stronger Auburn Yes on Measure L, said he is glad the furloughs are done with for now. “As a parent I think if we can get school days back for our kids, that is a good thing,” Haswell said. “At the end of the day I’m happy. As a homeowner and a member of Auburn, if the schools are in a healthier position it’s better for all of us.” Monica Williams Williams is the district’s new chief business official and is replacing Douglas Crancer, who held the title of assistant superintendent of business and facilities. Williams has a base annual pay of $102,000. The district pays $7,540 annually for her health benefits, $600 for a cell phone allowance and $75.60 annually for a life insurance policy, according to Schuetz. Crancer made $92,000 annually when he left, but would have made $102,000 this year without furloughs, according to Schuetz. Schuetz said Williams’ duties are the same, but her title is different for a reason. “When Douglas left we really looked at the salaries of assistant superintendents,” she said. “We really weren’t going to be competitive with that, so we changed it back to business official because we were thinking we might have a strong pool to choose from. It was to attract more applicants because a lot of people who are already in an assistant superintendent position are already making several thousand dollars higher salary.” Schuetz said before Crancer was hired, his predecessor was hired as a chief business official. Williams came to Auburn from the North Monterey County Unified School District where she was the assistant superintendent of business services. Schuetz said the district is very excited to have Williams on board. “We’re really excited about working with her, and she comes with a wealth of experience,” she said. “And I think she is going to enjoy working in the area and enjoy working in a small district.” The state of the district now Daniel Berlant, president of the district’s board of trustees, said although the state’s budget did not include the large cuts to education the district budgeted for, mid-year cuts could still be a problem. “We have a state budget, we have an idea, but there is still that looming threat, so we have to be fiscally responsible and not spend all the money in case those mid-year cuts occur,” Berlant said. “The state is really relying on revenue including income taxes, sales taxes and … the actuals in the last few months have been over their projections, so that’s a good sign, possibly that the economy is slowly starting to recover.” Berlant said if mid-year cuts become a reality the district could lose $200,000 in transportation funds alone. “(Cuts would be) definitely in the hundreds of thousands,” Berlant said. Berlant said the district is still at a level that is lower than what they are constitutionally guaranteed for funding, but the board is going to move ahead with what it has. “I think that our goal as a board in general is to provide a quality education despite the fact that we really still are in a budget crisis,” he said. “Things are better, but ultimately we have asked our teachers and our administrators to do more with less. Teachers are really doing more with less money in their classrooms, more kids in their classrooms, but we still need them to educate their students to the best of their abilities so we can get high test scores.” Schuetz said for now no additional programs, including fifth-grade band, have been cut at schools and class sizes will remain the same. Community members donated $12,000 to the Auburn Education Foundation and the district is planning to write a grant for the funds, Schuetz said. “We are hoping with that added to money that has already been given by the foundation that we can at least keep the libraries open this year,” Schuetz said. Schuetz said depending on enrollment for the fall the district is also hoping to bring back some of the teachers it issued lay off notices to. Schuetz said the district now that the state budget has passed, it has 45 days to redo its budget and present it to the board before the board can come up with its three-year plan. Karen Enghusen, a teacher at E.V. Cain Charter Middle School, said most teachers are happy about going back to a school year without furlough days, but says if mid-year cuts happen, they would be hard on everyone. “Most are feeling a bit more confident (right now), they are just cautiously optimistic,” she said. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com