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Union, district impasse ongoing

Teachers, officials gave reports concerning the budget Wednesday
By: Bridget Jones Journal staff writer
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The Auburn Union Teachers Association voiced its budget concerns at a recent board meeting. Gloria Maxwell, a fourth-grade teacher at Skyridge Elementary School, gave a report to the board of trustees for the Auburn Union Elementary School District Wednesday night. Maxwell said she feels she accurately reflected the district’s concerns to the board and that the board is taking those concerns seriously. “I think it went well,” Maxwell said. “I do think Trustee Gehlbach is very honest. I do think he’ll look through this.” The teachers’ union and district have been at an impasse in budget negotiations since May 3 when the union sent a response to the district denying proposed ways for cutting costs in the 2010-11 school year. In its March 16 proposal to the union, the district stated that it is expecting a $1.4 million structural deficit by the end of next school year. The same proposal stated that the union’s proportional share of that deficit is $972,000. Previous cuts have already allowed for a savings of $390,000, leaving the union to find a way to save an additional $582,000, according to the district. Maxwell said Wednesday the union is concerned about having to cut more programs to save more money when the district’s ending balance has grown from more than $800,000 in the 2004-05 school year, to over $3 million at the end of last year. Douglas Crancer, assistant superintendent of business and facilities for the district, said he answered the union’s concerns when he presented the district’s third interim report Wednesday night. Crancer said Friday the district doesn’t decide how the entire ending balance is used, because a good deal of the money is slated for specific things like instructional materials. “A lot of it deals with federal and state categorically restricted funds,” Crancer said. Trustee Daniel Berlant said the district is also not receiving as much money from the state because educational funding has been cut tremendously over the last couple years. Berlant said the district creates a budget to cover three school years, and if further cuts aren’t made, the district will no longer be able to support itself financially by the 2011-12 school year. “We’re not necessarily looking at cutting more people … but we’re looking at cutting salaries, benefits and other concessions,” he said. Michele Schuetz, superintendent of the district, said while a district can’t declare bankruptcy, the state will take over if it is unable to support itself financially. Crancer said that while the district is economically sound this school year, it is expected to begin deficit spending in the 2010-11 year. Steve Schaffer, president of the union, said he’s hopeful the board will now see the union’s side of the budget disagreement. “I think … our hope is (the report) opened up dialogue about the budget,” Schaffer said. “Right now the board of trustees have been following along with everything they’re being told by our CFO.” Schuetz said she encourages community members to call the district with any questions or concerns about the ongoing impasse. A state-appointed mediator will be assigned to help the union and district come to a resolution of the budget disagreement, Schuetz said. “The whole purpose of the mediation is to help both parties come to a mutually agreeable solution,” she said. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com