The school board on Thursday night began to look at what it would take to make the district competitive in terms of teacher compensation. No one else has a revenue measure specific to raise compensation for teachers.
Matt Best, Deputy Superintendent of Administrative Services for the DJUSD, explained that 10 percent is our biggest gap, although it fluctuates across our salary schedule.
In order to close our regional average… plus benefits… “we think that closing the compensation gap for all of our employees is somewhere in the three to four million dollar range,” Matt Best explained. “That’s a big number even for a parcel tax.”
Board member Tom Adams asked, “Why can’t we do that within our own existing revenues?”
Mr. Best responded, “Four million dollars if you’re looking at FTE is about 60 FTE. So you’d have to reduce 60 FTE from positions across the district – teaching, staff, administration in order to raise salaries.
“We call it rates and units – if you want to raise the rate, you have to decrease the units because 85 percent of our district general fund budget goes to employee salaries already.”
Tom Adams said, “We would have to reduce the services to our students… The bottom line is it’s not laying off people, eliminating positions, it’s asking our
students to deal with less services. Somebody is going to get hurt and it’s probably going to be them.”
The district figures that $100 per year in parcel taxes generates about $1.5 million in revenue for the school district.
Matt Best explained that raising the pay by one percent per employee would cost the district $700,000.
How did we get to this point? He explained that right now we get funded at 87 cents on the dollar which goes to core programing – “that’s the bread and butter programs that every district is doing.” Another 11 cents comes from the parcel tax – that’s for very specific things that we can’t fund otherwise.
“That still leaves you two cents less on the dollar than everyone else is getting,” he said. “So you do that over 30 years and less than average funding, and the effect is what we see. It’s exacerbated by LCFF [Local Control Funding Formula] which has accelerated the funding for our neighboring districts – those conditions create this compensation gap phenomena.”
In order to close it, “we need to reduce the services that those 87 cents buy in order to raise the salaries to close the gap.” He added, “It’s doubly difficult because our core funding is already stretched because you can’t cut parcel tax programming to raise employee compensation.”
Madhavi Sunder explained that Davis has about 27 percent low income students, while a lot of the other neighboring districts have a much higher percentage, perhaps upwards of 70 percent. There is just no comparison there with the way that LCFF funds districts. We have identified Rocklin School District as being more comparable to us than other districts in terms of demographics.
“We don’t really have an avenue to increase revenue there, so we need to think about other avenues as well as decreasing our expenditures,” she said.
The board and district talked about ways they could cut money. Matt Best estimated that it would save about 3 to 3.5 FTE or $180,000 to cut seventh period at Davis High School. He estimated another $300,000 if you cut seventh period from the junior highs.
So cutting seventh period would get you less than a one percent pay increase and Matt Best warned, “Maybe. Because sometimes when you make cuts like that there are actually negative externalities that reduce your savings,” he said.
Ms. Sunder explained, “We really have to decide between parcel tax and how much versus how much we can cut and where. And what combination of the two we would want to proceed with.”
If the board put it on the ballot for November 2018, the district would start seeing that revenue in the summer of 2019. “We can’t wait 18 months and do nothing, expecting that the parcel tax is going to pass,” Matt Best said, which means that they will have to figure out ways to cut into the gap before the parcel tax comes on the ballot. He did say that “the parcel tax is the most expeditious way for closing of the gap.”
Alan Fernandes stated, “I want our teachers to be paid better than the surrounding area, that’s my goal. That’s my interest in all of this.” However, he said, “In order to get to third base, we have to get to first base first. That means closing the wage gap. That is the top priority for me and all of the work that we’re doing here.
“I don’t think that any of us have ever suggested otherwise up here,” he said. The question is how.
He asked “can you cut your way to wage gap and cut your way to better pay?”
Matt Best said, “Theoretical answer is yes. But cutting 100 FTE would not be the district that we know.” He said you would have to close schools, have larger campuses and class sizes. We would have to cut the programs that make this district the district that we know. And he said it would take five years to implement.
So the answer: “theoretically yes, my answer is no.”
Alan Fernandes stated: “It could happen but it would fundamentally change the way our district looks and feels and the quality of education we are able to provide.”
Parcel tax is really the only mechanism that a local district has to increase the revenue locally. Superintendent John Bowes stated, “The parcel tax is really the revenue stream to focus on.”
Mr. Fernandes stated, “Before I do a parcel tax, I want to exhaust all our existing remedies.” He said, “Going to the parcel tax option is a serious thing, it’s something we don’t take lightly. It’s going to our community. I for one am not afraid to do it, because I believe we need to do everything we can to close that wage gap.”
He added, “This is one of our best tools – maybe not the only tool. Because tonight’s hearing is not about the cut side, it’s all about the revenue side of the equation.”
He later added, “I think our community supports our teachers and would do it.”
Matt Best pointed out that an important consideration is “time” and “we are in one of the worst teacher shortages this state has known – it’s going to get worse because our universities are not keeping up with the demand of Baby Boomer retirements, our recession of years back really depleted the number of people wanting to join the profession, our state tax funding model is inadequate to foster the type of quality of education we believe in in this town.”
He said our state funding will get worse and, without a parcel tax, “you’re talking five to eight years of hard work just to get us on par – time is of the essence here.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting