Union OKs new pact featuring salary cut

The union that represents Clark County School District administrators has agreed to concessions worth an estimated $2 million in 2010-11.

In a contract ratified Tuesday by the Clark County Association of School Administrators and Professional-technical Employees, the union accepted a 1.5 percent pay cut for its members, who will work three fewer days next year. It also agreed to the termination of benefits associated with working at year-round schools, which the district decided to phase out earlier this year.

The contract, which was ratified by 85 percent of the 171 members who voted, is a step toward re-establishing labor peace in the district.

The administrators union is dropping an unfair labor practice complaint it filed earlier this year with the state’s Local Government Employees Management Relations Board. The complaint questioned the fairness of costly perks and benefits given to five top district executives in a time of financial hardship.

In exchange, the district is dropping a counter-claim that questioned the legitimacy of the administrators union.

Stephen Augspurger, executive director of the union, said continuing an acrimonious relationship benefits no one.

“We’re always better off when we’re back at the table discussing things,” Augspurger said. “I guess the proof in the pudding will be what happens in the future.”

Superintendent Walt Rulffes acknowledged “protracted” negotiations with the administrators union, which represents about 1,300 employees. The district employs about 38,000 people.

The only employee union that has yet to reach an agreement with the district is school police.

“The administrators came through in the end, for which I am profoundly grateful,” Rulffes said. “Virtually all CCSD employees can now stand tall and hold their heads high for their demonstrated commitment to shared sacrifice to help students and their fellow workers.”

Rulffes also said he hopes that some of the 89 school administrator positions that were cut from the 2010-11 budget can be restored.

That will depend in part on the results of a survey asking principals whether they would give up school supplies for more administrative staff. Restoration of positions also hinges on the district avoiding additional financial shortfalls in the future and how much in savings the district is able to carry forward from this year to next year.

The district has struggled to manage a $145 million funding shortfall brought on by state cuts, decreased revenue from property taxes and growing contractual expenses such as employee pay raises.

To save the district about
$25 million, the unions representing teachers and support staff agreed to forgo longevity raises next year.

Because only 261 of 1,300 administrators are still eligible for longevity raises, Augspurger said his union did not think it was fair to force sacrifices on such a small minority.

Instead, the union agreed to take an across-the-board salary cut of 1.5 percent. The administrative work year will be shortened by three days as a result.

Rulffes said a portion of the savings from the salary cut will be used to cover a pension benefit for the administrators. The district agreed to restore the administrators’ salary schedule, which was cut by 0.5 percent this year to cover the pension cost.

Because the district is ending year-round schools to save money, the union agreed to give up related benefits, such as the $3,000 stipend for year-round principals.

The new nine-month schedule will not start until the new school year starts in late August.

Like Rulffes, Augspurger hopes that many school administrators whose jobs were cut will find their positions restored.

Because the jobs directly affect student achievement, Augspurger said, the rationale for the cuts was hard to understand, unless they were intended to pressure the union.

Ruben Murillo, president of the Clark County Education Association, also has accused the district of playing labor hardball.

He recently criticizing proposed legislation that sought to curb the bargaining rights of school employee unions.

Murillo has mocked district officials for adopting the conservative views of Gov. Jim Gibbons.

“When did you hire Jim Gibbons to do your bill drafting?” asked Murillo at a recent School Board meeting. “This is what he has been proposing at the legislative level.”

One bill draft submitted to the state by the district would have allowed school districts to change teacher contract terms, such as those regarding salaries and job reassignments, at schools in the fourth year or more of “needing improvement” under No Child Left Behind, the federal education accountability law.

Another district bill draft would have ended the “evergreen” labor provision during times of financial hardship.

The evergreen provision means that school districts will honor the terms of an expired contract until a new labor agreement is adopted.

Neither of the proposed bill drafts survived the Legislative Committee on Education.

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

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