Union proposes pay cut for all employees in Clark County School District

A 1.5 percent pay cut by all 38,500 employees in the Clark County School District would prevent layoffs and resolve the budget crisis for the 2010-11 school year, according to a proposal from the union representing school principals and administrators.

Stephen Augspurger, executive director of the Clark County Association of School Administrators and Professional-technical Employees, is scheduled to discuss the proposal at 9:30 a.m. today with Superintendent Walt Rulffes and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Weiler.

Rulffes did not respond to an e-mail asking for comment but has said he does not like to negotiate in public.

The school district is facing a budget shortfall of $145 million because of state funding cuts and declining income from property taxes.

District officials have announced that they might have to cut as many as 1,077 jobs if concessions are not reached with its four unions representing principals, school police, teachers and support staff.

Augspurger said his plan answers the superintendent's call for "shared sacrifice" by making everyone take a minimal pay cut.

The resulting one-time savings of $28.7 million would plug a remaining budget hole that district officials have not determined how to fill.

Some of the savings would come from mandating three unpaid furlough days a year.

Instruction time would not be affected because teachers could take off their in-service days when school is not in session.

It was not clear Monday how much employee support Augspurger has for his latest proposal. Mike Thomas, president of the Police Officers Association, and Bo Yealy, president of the Education Support Employees Association, did not return calls seeking comment.

Ruben Murillo -- president of the teachers union, the Clark County Education Association -- confirmed that he has seen the proposal but had no comment. He said his union still is "headed toward arbitration."

"Everything is still fluid, in motion," Murillo said.

Augspurger said he thinks employees are in support of a minimal pay cut.

"I believe that district employees from all bargaining groups recognize the gravity of the current budget situation and are willing to do what is necessary to assist in the resolution of this financial crisis," Augspurger said in an e-mail to the superintendent.

However, Augspurger believes "that CCSD employees would like to resolve this issue without unnecessary delay so that the focus of every employee can return to providing the best education possible to students."

Augspurger said it's obvious that the budget crisis won't be fixed without a salary cut. He said there has to be a "sense of the urgency" to get the problem solved.

He also said he thinks all negotiations should be done in a public forum for the sake of transparency and fairness.

Augspurger's proposal builds on the $117 million in cost savings and program cuts that already have been identified for the fiscal year that begins July 1. These include the $40 million in one-time savings from this year and $17.4 million from converting all or most 12-month schools to 9-month calendars, as well as reduction of the textbook budget by $15.2 million.

It also keeps the expansion of class sizes in grades 1 through 3 that are projected to cut 540 teaching jobs and save the district about $31 million.

Augspurger noted that district officials have referred to these job losses as "soft cuts" because of the likelihood that the teachers would be able to find other classroom jobs in the system.

In keeping with earlier budgets proposed by the district for 2010-11, salary increases based on experience and education would be preserved, but there would not be a cost-of-living increase.

Augspurger also believes his proposal would solve one of the most contentious issues of the negotiations: how to cover a half-percent increase in the cost of the contributions to the state pension plan, the Public Employee Retirement System, or PERS.

For the current year, the teachers union got the district to cover its half-percent increase, but the other three unions did not, Augspurger said.

Covering teachers' PERS increase is a liability of $9 million for this year and next year to the district's general fund, Augspurger said. It would cost $4.4 million more to cover the same contribution for support staff, police and administrators.

By state law, increases in contributions to PERS are supposed to be shared equally between the employer and the employee.

Under the proposal, the district would pay for all employees' PERS increases by using part of the savings from the 1.5 percent salary reduction.

Because the PERS payment is coming from employee pay cuts, it would comply with the state law and restore a sense of fairness to district employees, Augspurger said.

"We get the same thing the teachers got," Augspurger said.

Contact reporter James Haug at jhaug@reviewjournal. com or 702-374-7917.