The Dos Palos Oro Loma Teachers Association is claiming the school district has been misstating its financial situation amid contract negotiations by hoarding money into separate funds.
The school district denies the assertion, noting that those funds are being used for necessary improvements in the district.
“Over the last several weeks and in negotiations, DPOLTA, through (the California Teachers Association), has examined various district budget documents, specifically information related to Fund 40, a special reserve for capital projects fund – and budgeted excess,” the teachers union said in a statement released Wednesday.
The union said in the release that the school district has been transferring $1.8 million from its general fund to line items such as Fund 40, “making the money unavailable to teachers and students, the community and other employees.”
Dos Palos teachers are in contract negotiations with the school district. On April 6, teachers declared an impasse after balking at the school district’s offer of a 1 percent raise while the district also sees an increase of $3.1 million in ongoing permanent funding.
Teachers were seeking essentially a 9 percent raise. The impasse has led to mediation meetings.
On April 11, Superintendent William Spalding’s first day, teachers picketed the school district building. They also picketed a school board meeting April 21.
“We feel this hoarding of resources from our students is dishonest,” union President Marty Thompson said in the release about Fund 40. “School board members – do your job. Put your resources in people, not projects.”
The release said negotiations have gone nowhere and it calls the school district “financially sound.”
Thompson said the district’s accounting methods were questionable.
“There’s money there and they refuse to settle the contract,” Thompson said. “Teachers are fed up with making financial sacrifices with a district that does not respect our dedication. The ongoing choice not to bargain in good faith hurts the kids in our classrooms.”
The union claims in the release that the school district has not budged from its 1 percent salary increase offer. The teachers are asking for a 6 percent pay hike in 2015-16, costing the district $501,000, and an additional 6 percent in 2016-17.
Spalding responded to several of the union’s claims to the Enterprise on Wednesday.
He said the district has been putting an annual allotment of $1 million from the general fund into Fund 40 to be used for necessary infrastructure improvements outlined by a recent facilities needs assessment.
That assessment identified $26 million in work that needs to be done on improvements such as HVAC systems, gym floor repairs and roofing, Spalding said.
Fund 40 previously was used to rebuild the agriculture building that burned down in a 2010 fire, Spalding said. A new building was completed last year.
Spalding said the other $800,000 came from the district cleaning up its budget.
While it was previously thought the district would be $800,000 to $900,000 in the negative this year, Spalding said an improved budget showed that the school district is a little less than $100,000 in the red.
Spalding denied that the school district hasn’t relented on its 1 percent increase offer.
“While negotiations are confidential, I can’t get into numbers,” Spalding said. “But I can say that we’ve made other offers through mediation.”
Spalding said the school district so far has completed two mediation sessions with the union on May 20 and June 15.