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Teachers Want COLA Raises

LCUSD Says District Doesn't Have Funds

February 24, 2005|By Jacqueline Chen

Even though the La Cañada Unified School District did not get its full share of Proposition 98 funds (see accompanying article), it was given cost of living adjustments (COLA) from the state. Local teachers, who are in protracted contract negotiations with the district, are questioning why the monies were not passed on to them.

"This year the COLA is, I believe, 2.47 percent and the funded increase is 3.57 percent," said Mary Jane Hufstedler, past president of the La Cañada Teachers Association (LCTA) and present chairperson of negotiations. "Teachers believe that they should have a raise that is at least equal to the COLA since the district received that percentage increase on all of the money received from the state."

An updated LCUSD financial report obtained last week showed the amount of general funding received for the present school year rose about 3.2 percent over the previous year. General funding for schools is based on average daily attendance (ADA) and because student population in La Cañada Flintridge is shrinking, percentage raises have been offset by the decreasing number of students.

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John Kramar, LCUSD's chief business officer, said the heart of the issue lies in the fact that the district's manpower expenditure is greater than the general funding it receives from state. The public funds LCUSD receives are not enough to pay for staff compensation, which in-cludes salaries and benefits.

"We get $21 million in revenue money," Kramar said. "Twenty-four million dollars goes to employee cost. If the state gives us a 3 percent increase and we go in and increase (salaries) 3 percent, we've spent more money increasing than we got from the state. We don't get enough money from local property taxes and the state to even pay our employees."

Rising Health,

Welfare Costs

One large contributing factor to the shortfall is the large increases in benefits. Employee health and welfare insurance, which form part of staffing expense, have risen steeply over the last four years. Average cost of medical insurance per employee increased from $6,080 in fiscal year ending 2002 to $9,616 in 2005.

Under the expired contract which the LCUSD is renegotiating with the teachers' union, the staff does not contribute towards their medical premiums. The district pays for insurance not just for the employees, but also for their families.

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