SMMUSD HDQTRS — California’s budget crisis means summer break will likely be coming early for students in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

The school district has reached tentative labor agreements with its teachers and other employees that include five furlough days this year and next year. If given final approval, the school year would be shortened by five days. The furloughs will save SMMUSD about $2 million per year, cutting into its $14 million projected deficit.

The proposed agreements still need to be ratified by the unions that represent district teachers and employees.

“We’re most appreciative of everybody stepping up and really offsetting a portion of this deficit,” Superintendent Tim Cuneo said, though he noted layoffs and program cuts will still be required to close the district’s budget gap.

“The board understands that reaching a tentative agreement with our employees that reduces their salaries through furloughs is a major sacrifice,” School board President Barry Snell said in a press release. “Our employees have shown that they understand our district’s dilemma and this tentative agreement is an example of their willingness to do their part.”

Under the proposed deal the district will continue to pay 100 percent of health care costs for district employees and their families.

Administrators, including the district’s top personnel, also are taking pay cuts.

Cuneo said he will be giving up about $11,000 each year by foregoing the equivalent of six days’ pay and about $5,000 in other benefits. He also said last year he didn’t seek the 10 percent bonus he’s entitled to and won’t ask for it this year or next year. The reduction to his $220,000 salary, he said, doesn’t mean he’ll be working fewer days.

Other top managers also are giving up six days’ pay this year and next year.

Mike Matthews, assistant superintendent for human resources, said the salary reductions are equivalent to nearly 3 percent pay cuts across the board.

Also included in the tentative labor agreements announced last week is a one-time program aimed at encouraging older, higher-paid teachers to retire. The deal would be available to teachers 55 or older who have worked in the district for at least 10 years. Eligible teachers could get between $12,500 and $20,000 or the equivalent amount in healthcare benefits for retiring at the end of the year.

Matthews said he expects at least 15 teachers to take the buyout, though he said more than 30 may opt in. The early retirement program is aimed at reducing the number of teachers who will receive pink slips this spring.

The furlough announcement came the same week the SMMUSD board voted to place a $198 parcel tax to benefit the schools before voters in a special mail-in election to be held May 25. If approved by two-thirds of voters in Santa Monica and Malibu the measure would raise $5.7 million per year for the district.

nickt@smdp.com

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