Saugus school board signs off on budget, union contracts 

File photo of Saugus Union School District

The Saugus Union School District governing board at Tuesday’s meeting signed off on the 2024-25 budget and ratified the union contracts that were agreed to earlier this month. 

Both items were passed unanimously, with board member Patti Garibay absent. 

The contracts call for salary increases of 1% to go along with 1% one-time, off-schedule payments for teachers and classified employees. The same salary increases were approved for management, confidential and unrepresented employees, as well as employees within the child development program. 

New salary schedules were also approved to match the salary increases. 

The agreements are retroactive to July 2023. 

Cassandra Rivera, treasurer for the Saugus Teachers Association, thanked the previous bargaining team for negotiating for much of the year before handing off the task to Rivera and the new STA board. She also said the union is looking forward to negotiations on the next contract soon. 

“We look forward to starting the negotiations process early for this coming school year as our entire contract will be open,” Rivera said. “Our members have been asked to review the contract and to complete a survey about burning topics, which will drive our negotiations. We will continue to comb through the contract as we seek input from members.” 

Sylvia Arnone, vice president of the California School Employees Association Chapter 112, which represents classified employees, said the 1% offer was the “last and final” from the district. 

“This is extremely disappointing,” Arnone said. “We want to make it clear that the 1% raise does not define our value nor or contributions to this district. This percentage marks the indifference of our struggles. We are fortunate to have discovered through this process to have parent and community support. We do have the power to make changes through the election process, and CSEA is now supporting us to help make those changes.” 

Superintendent Colleen Hawkins thanked the representatives from both unions for working with the district to reach agreements despite the final numbers not being as high as those groups may have wanted. 

“We do appreciate that we got to the end and thank them for the graciousness in passing this tentative agreement and allowing us to move on to a new year,” Hawkins said. “Hopefully, the fiscal situation for the state will look better.” 

Board President Matt Watson echoed those sentiments and said he wishes that the decision-makers at the state level would value teachers as much as professional athletes are valued so that teachers can get paid what they are worth. 

“As soon as our society starts evaluating the ability to teach a child to read as much as we value hitting the curveball, we’ll get there,” Watson said. “In the meantime, let’s all continue to please reach out to our local elected officials to lobby on behalf of, really, our children.” 

As Hawkins alluded to, the district has been preparing its budget for the next school year despite the state only projecting a 1.07% cost-of-living adjustment. That’s a steep decrease from the 8.22% that the state handed out for this year. 

The district is also looking at a decrease in its funded average daily attendance, from 9,013 to 1,864. That represents about $600,000 less in revenue, according to Nick Heinlein, assistant superintendent of business services. 

The adopted budget for the 2024-25 school year has the district bringing in just under $136 million in revenue against $139 million in expenditures. That means the district is expecting to spend 0.7% more and bring in 1.5% less than the 2023-24 school year. 

The district’s reserve for economic uncertainties remains high at just under $14 million. It is being projected to remain that way for the 2025-26 school year before jumping up to $14.2 million in 2026-27. 

The reserve for all three years is a little under $10 million more than the minimum recommended amount. The reasons stated in the documents sent to the Los Angeles County Office of Education are “reserve for operational cash flow needs, potential mid-year reductions based on economic volatility,” indicating that the district is still unsure how much money the state will be giving out. 

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