State

Modesto school district to chop manager salaries

Modesto City Schools announced at Monday night's school board meeting that it made some progress on next year's budget.

School Board President Kim Spina said the district had reached an agreement with the bargaining unit that represents its managers for reducing their salaries by 5.5 percent through five furlough days and a 3 percent pay cut.

The 18 managers who have $500 a month car allowances will be cut by 20 percent this year and 20 percent next year. But the remaining 60 percent of the car allowance will become part of the managers' salary next year, which drew dismay from many in the audience Monday.

Board members listened to about a dozen teachers, librarians and counselors criticize the district's latest plan to balance its budget before more than 400 people who packed the Enochs High School cafetorium. Many were Modesto Teachers Association members wearing pink T-shirts with "S-O-S Save Our Schools Cuts Hurt Kids" printed on them.

Most said administrators would not share equally in the budget cuts and the cuts would fall disproportionately upon teachers, librarians and counselors.

"I keep hearing the term fair and equitable," said one speaker. " ... I'm not seeing fair and I'm not seeing equitable."

The board members did not respond because the teachers and others spoke during the public comment period and the district's budget plan was not on the agenda.

But Chris Flesuras, the district's chief of human resources, said in an interview that the district is only asking MTA members to take their fair share. He said they make up 72 percent of the district's wages and they are being asked to take 72 percent of the cuts.

Modesto City Schools officials said Friday they are rescinding layoff notices sent to more than 200 teachers. That came more than a month after administrators handed out 517 layoff warnings to teachers, librarians and counselors as part of a plan to cut $25 million from the district's $250 million budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Officials already have cut $4.5 million.

But the district needed to hand out no more than 240 layoff warnings, MTA Co-Executive Director Barney Hale said in an interview.

"I think they did that to frighten people," he said. "Then they came back with another proposal, and all of sudden people feel we have dodged a bullet and will accept it. "

Flesuras said that's not the case. He said the district issued the 517 layoff warnings based on the best budget information it had at the time.

Hale said the district will need to lay off about 100 teachers under its most recent proposal to the MTA. That proposal would cut MTA members' pay next school year by 5.75 percent through a 3 percent salary reduction and five furlough days.

In all, the district's proposal to the MTA would cut $14.2 million, increase K-3 class sizes from 20 to 25 students and lay off about 16 counselors.

Modesto City Schools board members and the teachers union had one brief moment of accord Monday night.

It occurred when teachers union President Charlie Young handed the district a $5,000 check to help pay for a study on holding an election to raise property taxes for schools.

"Thank you, Charlie, that's the spirit," Spina said.

The board members decided in March to spend as much as $27,500 to study whether Modesto voters would be willing to raise their property taxes for schools.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or 578-2316.

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