The Superintendent of the Brentwood Union School District, Dan Eaton, issued an update on the ongoing negotiations between the Brentwood Teachers Association and the District. Below is the letter sent out on Thursday, Feb 27, in its entirety.
Dear Brentwood Union School District Community,
I am writing to provide some updates involving our ongoing negotiations with the Brentwood Teachers Association (BTA). We have been informed that starting next week, many of our teachers will be “working to rule,” a work action that generally means employees will only be performing the duties explicitly outlined in their contract. As this will impact our schools, we wanted to share the latest information with you regarding ongoing negotiations. We have held fourteen negotiations sessions since March 2019, and we are struggling to come to agreement. On February 26, 2020, after 14 days of negotiations, the Brentwood Union School District (BUSD) informed the BTA that it would be asking the state for assistance. When that happens, the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) is asked to issue a formal declaration of impasse. If PERB approves, they forward it on to the State Mediation and Conciliation Service who appoints a trained mediator. The impartial mediator then facilitates all talks between the two teams. We are hopeful that an objective third party will be able to help us find the common ground to reach an agreement.
First, we want to acknowledge that our employees are the key reason that our schools are so successful. Despite being the lowest funded district in Contra Costa County, we continue to prioritize employee compensation. When comparing salaries, our teachers have the 3rd highest salary out of 17 districts in the county at year 1, 4th highest at year 10 and 6th highest at our maximum salary despite the fact that we are funded anywhere from $190 less to over $3,100 less per student than all other districts in our county. Our competitive compensation is due to the fact that we spend 90.3% of our unrestricted money on salaries and benefits. This is significantly higher than any neighboring district. Please understand that we absolutely believe that our amazing teachers and staff deserve to be at the top of every column. Their salary increases have not kept up with the cost of living increases. This is a state revenue issue, not a prioritization issue.
We are currently offering a 1.75% salary increase for the current year, plus we have an interim agreement for increased contributions to health benefits (equivalent to a .75% salary increase) for a total package of 2.50%. The average total compensation increase given by the 14 Contra Costa County school districts that have settled for 2019-20 is approximately 2%. Our current offer will raise the top teacher’s salary in the district to $99,358. The average teacher salary in the district will increase to $87,888. In addition, the district’s benefits package interim agreement increases the total to $18,005 a year for health and dental for those teachers taking family benefits. The Brentwood Teachers Association is currently asking for a 10% salary increase over two years (5% in 19/20, 5% in 20/21), plus other items in the contract that would add millions of dollars more.
Our district has seen significant budget increases over the past 4 years. We saw an increase of $11.5 million in unrestricted dollars from July 2015 – June 2019. However, during the same time period, mandated expenses in just three areas; the California Public Retirement System (PERS) and State Teachers Retirement System (STRS), Special Education required costs, and step and column increases for employees, increased greater than all of the revenue received. In addition, employee raises, increases to health benefits, increases to insurance and increased energy costs have greatly impacted our ongoing expenditures. In order to meet these budget pressures, we have made reductions of $4.6 million over three years and spent our reserve down by over $2.8 million dollars. Our reserve is currently half of the average reserve for a school district our size. We sincerely want to be able to give our employees a higher share of the income that we have received. State mandated expense increases have meant that the only spending decisions we have made in the last 3 years have been about what to reduce.
It is also true that both the Brentwood Teachers Association and the district have many areas of contract language that we are still working towards agreement on. It is important for both sides to consider the financial implications of any language, in addition to how the new language would impact students and staff across the district. There are thoughtful proposals on the table that require careful consideration.
It is important to note that, by law, school districts are required to project their budgets three years out and be able to meet their obligations. Our budget is annually reviewed by the County Office of Education as well as an outside independent auditor who annually reports directly to the school board. These audits are available to any member of the public on our website and consistently show that our accounting practices and financial projections are accurate and realistic. We are committed to financial transparency which is why every major budget report and presentation is also available to anyone on our district website.
We are hopeful that through mediation, or by eventually bringing in a neutral fact-finder, we will be able to find a positive resolution. We absolutely believe that our employees are deserving and acknowledge that their salaries have not kept up with cost of living. Our goal continues to be to reach an agreement that is in the best interests of our wonderful staff as well as the fiscal health of our district.
Dana Eaton, Ed.D
Superintendent, Brentwood Union School District