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Hart district, classified agree to reductions

Workers to take a pay cut, have health benefits capped

Posted: August 5, 2009 8:54 p.m.
Updated: August 6, 2009 4:55 a.m.

The William S. Hart Union High School District’s 700 classified workers will take a pay cut and see their health benefits capped under an agreement approved by board members Wednesday.

“We can’t afford to go on at our accustomed level of comfort,” said Sue Guthrie, chief financial officer for the Hart district.

Like other school districts throughout the state, Hart has made cuts in the wake of the state financial crisis. Contract negotiations with its teachers’ union are at an impasse.

“Obviously, when your pay is cut, it hurts. It hurts your family budget,” said Pam Castagna, president of the California School Employees Association, Chapter 349, which represents non-teaching personnel at the district’s schools.

But union members approved the cuts — which save the Hart district $532,802 for the 2009-10 school year — as a way to prevent layoffs, Castagna said Wednesday.

The union ratified the agreement in July with 165 votes in favor of the changes to the contract and 43 against it.

The contract calls for a health-benefit cap of $13,500 for all classified employees, a salary reduction of 1.62 percent and the elimination of an attendance incentive program for employees hired after July 1.

The salary reduction will come in the form of furlough days, Castagna said.

The incentive program works by rewarding classified employees with extra sick days, said Hart district spokeswoman Pat Willett.

While core issues have been resolved, other minor items, like contract language, will continue to be negotiated in the upcoming school year.

In the meantime, contract negotiations between the Hart District Teachers Association, which represents more than 1,000 teachers, and the Hart district remain at impasse, Willett said.

Talks will resume Aug. 10 with a third-party mediator, she said.

While the main issue between the two groups has been the $13,500 health-care cap, the district has also proposed increasing class sizes and issuing furlough days.

“We’re very hopeful that we can come to an agreement after that first session,” Willett said.



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