Sac City Uni­fied, unions look to cut health costs

The Sacramento Bee - - Local - BY VIN­CENT MOLESKI [email protected]

Sacra­mento City Uni­fied School District’s Board of Ed­u­ca­tion said Thurs­day that it still could not meet its min­i­mum­re­serve re­quire­ments for the next two years as it ap­proved its first in­terim fi­nan­cial re­port since hav­ing its bud­get re­jected by the county Of­fice of Ed­u­ca­tion for the se­cond time in Oc­to­ber.

Be­fore ap­prov­ing the re­port with a neg­a­tive cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, four of the district’s five la­bor unions signed on to a plan to re­duce health care costs as the board in­tro­duced a timetable that may in­clude lay­offs in July as part of the district’s ef­forts to reach sol­vency.

Su­per­in­ten­dent Jorge Aguilar said the district and its la­bor part­ners would like to be­gin work­ing with the Cal­i­for­nia Ed­u­ca­tion Coali­tion for Health Care Re­form, a nonprofit group that works with dis­tricts to re­duce health care costs.

Aguilar said work­ing with CECHCR could re­sult in as much as $16 mil­lion in sav­ings with­out

af­fect­ing cov­er­age.

Ab­sent from the sign­ing cer­e­mony was the Sacra­mento City Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents district fac­ulty and has re­peat­edly ac­cused the district of fi­nan­cial mis­man­age­ment and ad­min­is­tra­tive ex­cess.

Richard Owen, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of United Pro­fes­sional Ed­u­ca­tors, a la­bor union that rep­re­sents school ad­min­is­tra­tors, said he be­lieved col­lec­tive health care ac­tion could pro­tect ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams while also tak­ing care of em­ploy­ees’ needs.

“Let me tell you right now we’re do­ing this for you,” Owen said, point­ing to sev­eral Hi­ram John­son High School stu­dents in the au­di­ence. “All of the adults need to step up to the plate, make the nec­es­sary shared sac­ri­fices.”

SCTA ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor John Bor­sos re­ferred to the sign­ing cer­e­mony as a “pub­lic­ity stunt” meant to re­di­rect at­ten­tion from the district’s neg­a­tively cer­ti­fied first in­terim re­port.

Bor­sos said the teach­ers’ union had al­ready be­gun talks with the district over health care sav­ings through CECHCR late last year — well be­fore the district’s bud­get was first re­jected in Au­gust — but no plans had been im­ple­mented since.

Bor­sos said the district had not taken any ini­tia­tive to move for­ward with CECHCR.

District spokesman Alex Bar­rios con­firmed that there had been prior dis­cus­sions with SCTA re­gard­ing health care sav­ings, although he said the union had stalled the ne­go­ti­a­tions by not pick­ing a health care plan.

As for the pos­si­bil­ity of lay­offs, Bar­rios said they are look­ing un­likely at this point, es­pe­cially given the four la­bor unions’ agree­ment to move for­ward on health­care. How­ever, he said lay­offs are on the ta­ble if cost-sav­ing mea­sures can­not ef­fec­tively bal­ance the bud­get.

Aguilar said the district had al­ready found about $12 mil­lion in sav­ings, which com­bined with pos­si­ble sav­ings in health care, would put the district well on its way to bal­anc­ing the bud­get.

Board Pres­i­dent Jessie Ryan said there was still a long way to go be­fore lay­offs would even be con­sid­ered and she re­mained op­ti­mistic that with co­op­er­a­tion from SCTA, the board could achieve sol­vency with­out tak­ing dras­tic mea­sures.

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