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Messer agrees to 5% pay cut July 1, passes on $13,080 in extra benefits

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POSTED April 2, 2009 5:28 a.m.
The $24,400 raise that new Manteca Unified Superintendent Jason Messer received last week has raised more than a few eyebrows from educators worried about whether they’ll have a job next year, but the salary he’ll be taking home is the  same his predecessor made while his overall compensation will actually be less.

In addition, he’s agreed to cut his own pay by a little over 5 percent when July 1 rolls around.

According to Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Don Halseth, the new salary that Messer will be making – $186,222.38 – is the exact same amount of money that Cathy Nichols-Washer had agreed to be paid in base salary when she signed her last district contract on July 1, 2007. She resigned after that to take an even higher paying job at Lodi Unified.

In a story that ran last week the Sun Post reported that Nichols-Washer was being paid a salary of $207,415.80 prior to her departure.

What the story didn’t identify in that number were the perks and benefits that went along with the position – including a $7,800 annual car allowance, a $300 monthly expense account, and the district’s coverage of the $1,680 dues required to be a part of the statewide administrators union. Messer has agreed not to take any of the perks costing $13,080 annually that were added to Nichols-Washer’s salary.

After Nichols-Washer announced her resignation early last summer, it took several weeks before Messer was voted in to temporarily take over the reins of the district as the Interim Superintendent. While serving in the capacity of Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, he was making a base salary of $145,640.64 before being given a 10 percent raise once he assumed his new role that bumped up his pay to $161,822.39.

And while he was also entitled to the same perks that Nichols-Washer enjoyed like a car allowance (although his was set at $600-a-month), it became apparent very quickly that those frills would soon be on their way out as the district’s debt outlook began to worsen and eventually reach the $23.5 million monster that they’re now facing today.

On top of losing the car allowance or mileage money that was cut by the board as a cost-saving measure, Messer will add to the district’s savings by passing on his other perks. Halseth said Messer has even agreed to take his own pay cut at the beginning of the next fiscal year – lowering his base salary down to $176,441.51 through June 30, 2011.

The $23.5 million deficit is still looming while the Board of Education and district administrators search for ways to cut that amount with the least impact possible on classrooms and students – also trying everything possible to prevent additional layoffs.

Negotiations with the district’s classified employees yielded an agreement for a five percent pay cut, but Halseth and other negotiators are still working with representatives of the district’s 1,300 teachers to reach a suitable pay cut agreement.

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