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Lodi Unified School District employees request restoration of salaries

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Posted: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 12:00 am

With Lodi Unified School District employees enjoying the news that the district stands to gain an estimated $28 million in Proposition 30 funds, union representatives asked the board of trustees on Tuesday to restore some of the wages employees gave up during the recession.

Teacher salaries decreased by 6.125 percent when the economy tumbled several years ago, prompting Lodi Education Association President Jeff Johnston to ask district officials to return to the bargaining table and begin negotiations with employees.

Similar sentiments were echoed by non-teaching district employees. Many non-teachers aren’t full time, and some of them make less than $20,000 per year, said Marvel Bristow, representing the California School Employees Association’s Lodi chapter.

“They have been loyal; they have been patient,” Bristow said.

Trustee George Neely said he appreciates the financial sacrifices that many district employees have made, and said that the board should look at restoring at least some of the employee salaries.

The discussion came up as Lodi Unified board members adopted the district’s $224.9 million budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Chief Business Officer Tim Hern said that the Proposition 30 revenue will only last for seven years, as dictated by statewide voters who adopted the ballot measure last November.

“It is not extra dollars,” Hern said about Proposition 30. “It’s nothing but a backfill for seven years (of budget cuts).”

The budget, which will be updated as early as July after Lodi Unified officials learn exactly how much revenue the district will receive in state education funds, features several spending changes. They include:

  • A 4.5-percent salary increase for teachers, primarily due to adding five school days to the calendar.
  • A 6.6-percent increase in classified, or non-teaching employee salaries.
  • A 2.6-percent increase for health care and other benefits.

Salaries and benefits constitute about 85 percent of the district budget, Hern said.

The board also budgeted a 10-percent cost increase to accommodate special education students, and a 2-percent reduction to transportation due to the use of natural gas vehicles instead of gasoline-powered buses.

Board member Ron Heberle said that the new budget the board adopted on Tuesday shouldn’t be etched in stone.

“The (state) budget is more of a concept than real hard numbers,” Heberle said. “It is important for the public to know that this budget is just a starting point.”

The only reason the school board adopted a budget Tuesday is because the San Joaquin County Office of Education requires one prior to July 1, even if the actual revenue isn’t known yet, Hern said.

“It is a living document that changes,” he said.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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