Sacramento City Teachers Association proposes $60 million in SCUSD cuts

SCTA leadership proposes $60 million savings plan to SCUSD Board of Education

Nikki Milevsky, the first vice president of the Sacramento City Teachers Association, proposes a plan to save Sacramento City Unified School District millions at a Board of Education meeting on Dec. 13, 2018.
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Nikki Milevsky, the first vice president of the Sacramento City Teachers Association, proposes a plan to save Sacramento City Unified School District millions at a Board of Education meeting on Dec. 13, 2018.

Amid Sacramento City Unified School District’s dismal financial situation, the Sacramento City Teachers Association proposed its plan Thursday evening to balance the budget while also funding student programs.

The teachers union presented its “Students First Budget Rebalancing Proposal” at a Board of Education meeting, claiming that it could save the district $60 million, balance the budget, improve student experience and still have cash left over afterward.

SCTA’s proposed savings would come in part through cuts to administration, including $16 million from reducing the number of central office administrators from 267 to 190, and $600,000 from reducing administrators’ pay to “a more reasonable level.” The proposal also outlined $16 million in health care savings that the district has already voiced interest in.

SCTA submitted a previous savings proposal in September that also called for significant cuts in administration shortly after the district’s budget was rejected for the first time ever. That proposal was not adopted by the district.

District spokesman Alex Barrios and SCTA Executive Director John Borsos said Friday that district and union representatives would meet for discussions Friday afternoon.

SCTA president David Fisher said he is optimistic the district will be open to the new proposal going forward in part because the union believes it offers comprehensive steps to improve the district.

After saving $60 million through administrative cuts, eliminating vacation buyouts for administration and management, limiting the use of third-party services and reducing health care costs, SCTA suggested the district focus on “students first priorities” with its funds.

Of those savings, $16 million would go toward balancing the budget and $24.4 million toward improving learning by reducing class sizes, implementing professional development practices for teachers — which would include cultural sensitivity training to avoid unfair punitive disciplinary measures — reinstating a summer learning program, funding sports and exercise programs, and supporting arts and music classes.

According to SCTA, this would leave the district with a reserve of $19.6 million while retaining and attracting students, whose continued attendance means continued state funding. The plan, Fisher said, will result in improved financial health for the district in the long run.

Fisher characterized the district’s current methods of cost savings as “austerity measures,” which encourage neither students nor employees to come to its schools.

“The dollars should always be prioritized to the classroom,” Fisher said.

Barrios said Thursday SCTA’s plan was essentially a “rehash” of its previous proposal, which the district has criticized as inaccurate. Barrios questioned if the proposal had been properly vetted to ensure its financial figures were correct.

Only 21 percent of administrators in the district — 57 positions — are paid out of the general fund, as opposed to grants, Barrios said, which means only modifications to those positions could save money in the budget.

Additionally, many of these positions perform leadership roles in human resources, accounting, communications and other areas, which cannot be removed without structural repercussions, Barrios said.

Nearly half of all administrative positions are held by principals, assistant principals or other coordinators, who perform essential roles, Barrios said.

Sacramento City Unified’s administrative costs have historically comprised less than 5 percent of general fund expenditures, which is lower than many surrounding school districts, according to figures provided by the district.

Per an agreement made last year, SCTA was supposed to have switched health care plans by July 1 to implement savings and the district claims the union’s delay has cost it about $4.4 million in lost savings opportunities, according to a letter sent Monday to Fisher by superintendent Jorge Aguilar.

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