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CUSD salary cuts continue
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To avoid layoffs and cuts to student programs, Ceres Unified School District officials have implemented a cost-savings plan that calls for across-the-board pay concessions for all employees in 2010-11 as part of a plan to help close a projected $5-6 million budget deficit.

The district's 100-plus nonunion employees voluntarily agreed to take an 8.5 percent salary pay reduction, effective July 1. The Ceres School Board approved the resolution with a 7-0 vote on Thursday, Jan. 21.

Administrators, from director-level positions to the superintendent, had already signed an agreement for a comparable salary cut.

Board trustees Eric Ingwerson, Faye Lane, Jim Kinard, Mike Welsh, Betty Davis, Valli Wigt and Faye Lane pledged to reduce their monthly stipends as well.

The district will save an estimated $500,000.

"The individuals affected by this resolution understand the necessity of shared sacrifice to weather this fiscal crisis," CUSD Supt. Walt Hanline said. "None of us enjoys the prospect of earning less, but the painful reality is that personal income is down nationwide. There are no longer any 'easy' solutions in this extreme economic climate."

The pay cuts come as CUSD-like districts throughout California-struggles to bridge a financial gap left by education cuts imposed by the state in the midst of "the most severe downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s," according to the resolution. Under Governor Schwarzenegger's latest budget proposal, funding for Ceres Unified is down 14 percent from peak levels in 2007-2008. State categorical funding-which carries spending restrictions-has been hit harder, down 20 percent.

With expenses and staffing levels already lean, and no foreseeable end to the economic crisis, the Ceres School Board has sought a solution that, while difficult, is intended to preserve the quality of education in Ceres.

"The maintenance of student programs is a priority of the governing board," said Ingwerson, board president. "Children born in the 1990s should not receive a lesser education because of the state's financial problems."

Nor does the Board wish to enact layoffs that would put employees on the street when the unemployment rate in Stanislaus County is already above 17 percent.

"When running for the board, I was told it was the worst time to be in an elected position," Wigt said. "And I knew budget decisions would be hard and they wouldn't be pretty. But the reality is even worse. Every single person who works for this district is a valued part of the Ceres Unified family. And it hurts to ask people to do this with less in this economy. But it seems to be the only way to save jobs and provide services to students. Most people I have talked to have asked for us to keep cuts as far away from students as possible. I don't like the situation. It's not fair. And I'm sorry too."

"To me, our employees are like family," Welsh stated. "I do not wish to have anyone lose their job. Also, our kids deserve to have the same quality, well-rounded education as the ones before them. I strongly support all of our programs such as sports, the arts, band, dance and others. The economy has forced the district to make many hard decisions. For the education of our kids, I support the resolution before us."

The 8.5 percent decrease does not affect health and welfare benefits, and the resolution allows for the percentage to be adjusted should budget conditions change. The District will also continue to seek cost-saving measures that least impact student learning.

"No one likes it but that's the reality," Welsh said. "We'll make it up to them when things turn around in the future."

Ceres Unified has yet to reach an agreement on salary concessions with its remaining 1,200 workers that are represented by teachers and classified employee bargaining units.

The district would save up to $5.1 million if those workers agreed to an 8.5 percent pay cut according to CUSD assistant superintendent of business services Fred Van Vleck.

"That's what we need to make our budget work," he said.

Added Welsh: "We hope they get on board with us."