By DENNIS WYATT
Manteca Unified teachers are in line to receive pay raises approaching $3 million this year.
And that is before salary and benefit negotiations between the Manteca Teachers Association (MTA) and the school district are even completed.
All certificated employees are receiving a 1 percent pay hike this year. That was negotiated last year when teachers received a 5 percent increase. And although teacher representatives claim the district is offering zero for this year, that 1 percent starts this year.
At the same time salary step movements based on longevity and units will cost taxpayers $2.1 million this year. It will push the combined pay and benefits of teachers past the $90 million mark. When other employee benefits and salaries are added the district is spending $141.6 million this year in employee costs. That’s 84 percent of the district’s overall budget.
The MTA also contends except for the 5 percent last year, teachers have gone without pay raises for nearly 10 years. However, that ignores the step pay increases well in excess of $2 million that occur annually. Teachers historically do not view the salary jumps tied to longevity and continuing education as salary hikes per se although it does put more money in their pockets. Not every teacher gets step movements every year and those at the top step are maxed out in terms of how much more they can make by meeting length of service and continuing education benchmarks.
The district prepared for negotiations by surveying compensation in nearby districts. The 10 districts include Tracy, Stockton, Modesto City as well as one district west of the Altamont Pass. Rather than average all of the districts together to come up with a salary range, the district historically uses the data to make sure it is placed near the middle of the pack. It’s designed to keep the district competitive as well as to keep costs in line.
As negotiations intensify, teacher negotiators typically try to draw the publics attention to large sums of money the district has on hand.
For example, on June 30 Manteca Unified is projected to have $13.4 million on had in cash.
However, that is simply a snapshot and not an accurate picture of district revenue versus expenses.
The money — except for relatively small reserves — is committed to ongoing expenses. For example, most teachers opt to be paid throughout the summer and not just after school starts in mid-August. As such the district must have money on hand to pay them in June, July and August.
At the same time, the district gets most of its money at several different times during the year from the state. More often than not the state runs behind in money payments to local districts. And during the depths of the Great Recession the state even kicked payments owed further down the road. That means districts often have money on the books for budgeting purposes that they may not receive until another budget year.
And that June 30 balance represents all sorts of funds of which many are restricted to specific categorical programs.
In addition, the state requires the district to pursue balanced budgets two and three years out.