Walnut Valley Unified’s 650 teachers will take 10 furlough days total during the next three years in an effort to help the district get back on firm fiscal ground.
The Board of Trustees Wednesday night voted 5-0 to ratify the collective bargaining agreement with the Walnut Valley Educators’ Association.
The vote on the agreement follows several months of tough negotiations between the administration and the teacher’s unions that lead to impasse and prompted the district to bring in a mediator to broker a deal between the two sides.
Board President Helen Hall said in a news release that she feels the agreement is key for the district’s future.
"This is a huge step forward for the District," she said about the ratification of the agreement. "The future is looking bright and we are thrilled to be moving beyond our financial challenges."
Walnut Valley teachers approved the agreement on Feb. 8. Under the plan, teachers at all 14 schools will take two furlough days before the end of the current school year, as well as four days each during 2013-14 and 2014-15.
The furlough days equal a 1.09 percent salary reduction by the end of May, and 2.2 percent for 2013-14 and 2014-15, according to the district.
“Educators did what was right for kids, as they have always done,” said Larry Taylor, Walnut Valley Educators Association (WVEA) president in a statement. “For the association, it will help our members do what they do best, educate kids, every student every day.”
In December, the district announced a $4.2 million shortfall and filed a negative certification with the Los Angeles County Office of Education, citing that it would not be able to meet its financial obligations for the current year and the subsequent year.
Superintendent Dean Conklin said last month at a community budget meeting that the district is in the black this year but in the red for the next two years.
Conklin’s original plan to help balance the district’s budget called for teachers to take six furlough days this year and nine for the subsequent two years, but the teachers’ association leadership said any furlough days agreed to had to come with cuts.
The current plan, which is expected to close a $12 million shortfall through 2014-15 and get the district back to a positive certification, has both, Conklin said.
“The new budget plan includes a combination of reductions and furlough days. These changes, along with the benefits associated with the passage of Prop 30, move our fiscal situation from a negative certification to a positive certification,” he said in a news release. “This is a major step forward for Walnut Valley. Compliments to the certificated, classified, and management staff who have worked so hard to develop this new plan.”
The Classified School Employee Association, which represents around 500 non-teaching employees, also plans to vote soon on a tentative agreement of its own.
“CSEA’s tentative agreement has gained the State Policy 610 approval,” said President Margarita Gutierrez. “The agreement can now be brought to the membership for ratification, and then to the Board of Trustees.”
The district must submit a revised spending plan by March 15 with balanced budgets through the 2014-15 school year. Officials say they expect the second interim report to be certified positive.
Under the agreement with the teachers’ association, two furlough days for 2013-14 and four in 2014-15 could be eliminated if the district closes escrow on its Site D property in Diamond Bar.
Lennar Homes bought the land for $39.8 million, but the escrow is still underway, according to the district. Under the sale agreement for the land, Lennar has a one-year escrow closing until Oct. 16, officials said. The buyer has the option to pay one or more escrow extension fees to stretch the closing out for one year beyond the October date.
“Discussions have begun on the potential use of these one-time funds,” said Jeanette Ullrich, assistant superintendent of business services. “Consideration is being given to items such as the payment of long-term debt obligations to free up current general fund debt service commitments; augmenting (general obligation) and State Bond funds to complete capital facility projects; and technology infrastructure.”