H-PASO ROBLES

Feb 8, 2012 3:07 AM by Ariel Wesler

Teachers protest against possible pay cuts

It was standing room only at Tuesday night's school board meeting in the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District.

The district has proposed a three percent pay cut this year and next for teachers. Back in September, auditors found an accounting error of $1.59 million. That means the cash-strapped district has even less money than it thought.

The teachers believe this is the district's fault and so they shouldn't have to pay the price to cover some one else's mistake. Many say this recession has already pushed them to the edge.

For the teachers in this room, cuts have major consequences. One by one, they shared them.

"I'm a single income family. I don't care if it's 6 percent, 7.5 percent or 3 percent. I don't have any wiggle room," said one teacher who took the podium.

"With an $800 dollar a month paycut, we'll most likely lose our house," said another teacher, who brought her family with her to the podium.

"I urge you to please return to the bargaining table. I can't do this anymore," said another woman with tears in her eyes.

District leaders say these three percent cuts are a first for the struggling district. It already faces a four million dollar budget gap over the next two years. The accounting error made it even worse.

"$1.59 million dollars was lost, which was esentially our entire reserve," said

The teacher's union says the district must find other solutions.

"Cutting a teacher's pay is going to affect those teachers is going to affect those teachers which then in turn affects the kids in the classroom," said Jim Lynett, President of the Paso Robles Educators.

"When 91 percent of your budget are salary and benefits, 91 percent of that population has to be part of the solution," said Superintendent Dr. Kathy McNamara.

Both the school board and the McNamara say they know the challenges first hand.

"I've got a daughter that's a teacher here and I've got a son-in-law that's a teacher here," said School Board President Jay Packer.

"I do take responsibility, and I take this very personally but this has been a long time coming," McNamara said.

She says she has taken furlough days and the board members have cut their stipend by half.

Since the district and the union are at an impasse, both parties must meet with a mediator under state law. If that fails, both gorups will present their positions to a fact-finding panel. The district can choose to accept or reject that decision. The teachers' option then is to accept the pay cut or vote to strike.

Paso Robles Joint Unified is the only school district in the county to have a negative certification. That means, currently, the district cannot meet its financial obligations for this year and the two years ahead.

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