If an agreement is not reached through mediation, the mediator will move the impasse process to a three-member fact-finding team that will recommend non-binding solutions.
Glendale Unified officials have projected an $18.5-million deficit in 2011-12, and state laws require school districts to maintain balanced budgets for three consecutive years. For the first time in recent memory, the district filed a “qualified” budget with the Los Angeles County Office of Education, which is an admission that the district might not meet its financial obligations. That, in turn, triggers increased regulation and oversight.
By 2012-13, district officials project a more than $50-million deficit, which does not include recently enacted cost-cutting measures, like increased elementary class sizes or fee-based summer school.
“The issue is, it’s the long-term financial viability of this district,” said John Garcia, district assistant superintendent for human resources. “A significant piece of addressing that budget shortfall has to come through negotiations with employee groups.”
Glendale Unified officials have sought to save an annual $3.8 million through negations with the teachers union, preferring a cap on health benefits. Teachers union leaders said a survey of their membership indicated changes to their health-care package were unacceptable.
“One of the main issues continues to be cost containment on a health benefits plan that, because it is fully funded by the district, is not sustainable,” Garcia said. “In an economic climate where the state is taking revenues away from the district, that expense is no longer sustainable.”
Union leaders have maintained that changes to their fully funded health benefits are untouchable because Glendale teachers are paid below average compared to other districts in Los Angeles County.
“We have voluntarily offered up a lot of pain to cover their financial problem,” said Steve Field, treasurer for the Glendale Teachers Assn. “They always come back at the last minute with the cap. The cap would be off the table all day long and then they’d . . . come back and say ‘Oh, the cap’s back.’”
Health-care costs have historically risen 10% annually, and recent moves by state legislators indicate that school districts will not receive a cost of living adjustment, which typically offsets structural costs, like health benefits.
“The issue continues to be, how do we get cost containment?” Garcia said.