Dear VPS families:
As we shared in a letter to you earlier this week, contract negotiations with the Vancouver Association of Educational Support Professionals (non-teaching staff union) are a difficult challenge this year due to legislative changes in the state’s funding system for K-12 education. This letter is intended to help you understand the status of negotiations and the district’s financial position.
Status of negotiations
The VPS and VAESP bargaining teams met yesterday, on Oct. 25, to continue their discussion of approximately 70 proposals related to salary and working conditions.
VAESP initially proposed a 25 percent salary increase for its members at a cost of $6 million. VAESP also asked for more than $3 million in additional contract improvements. The district initially proposed to increase VAESP salaries by 3.1 percent, the amount of the maximum state cost-of-living adjustment per ESSSB 6362.
VAESP’s October 25 proposal would increase the average salary by 22 percent at a total cost of $5.25 million.
After the state superintendent’s office and the state auditor’s office recently advised districts to ignore the ESSSB 6362 legislation, the district increased its proposal to 6.6 percent in 2018-19 and 1.9 percent in 2019-20, or a total of 8.5 percent over two years. VPS’ October 25 proposal, at a cost of $1.5 million, compares very favorably with Evergreen Public Schools’ 2018-19 classified salary schedule.
District’s financial position
As explained on our contract negotiations webpage, the state provided VPS approximately $7.2 million in McCleary funding for classified (non-teaching) staff. Wages to VAESP members comprise 38 percent of our classified salary costs, so their proportionate share of the McCleary money is just over $2.7 million. However, this amount is offset by the district’s loss of local levy and levy equalization funds. VAESP’s proportionate share of the loss is $880,081 in 2018-19 and $1,619,781 in 2019-20. As a result, the revenue available for VAESP classified salary improvements averages approximately $1.3 million per year over four years.
The October 25 VPS proposal would add $200,000 to its projected budget shortfall for 2019-20 bringing the total shortfall to $9.3 million. This includes the $9.1 million projected budget shortfall needed to pay for the new contract with the Vancouver Education Association. As acknowledged by VEA leaders during negotiations, the district needs to reprioritize local levy resources by eliminating positions not funded by the state, including teaching positions, to help pay for VEA contract improvements. Reducing central administrative services and spending down the district’s ending fund balance by $2.25 million over the three years of the VEA contract also are necessary to address the projected budget shortfall. Any additional compensation improvements for VAESP beyond the sustainable resources provided under the McCleary levy swap must come from deeper cuts.
The bottom line
The goal of the VPS board of directors and district leadership team is to provide fair and competitive wages in a fiscally responsible manner. Negotiations are scheduled to resume on October 29-30. We know that our students, parents and community members expect us to bargain in good faith and resolve these labor issues while ensuring that the district has the resources necessary to prepare all students for their future. I assure you, that is what we are committed to do.
Steven T. Webb, Ed.D.