Teachers Ask Conejo Valley Board to Use Budget Surplus for Pay Hike


In an initial proposal for a new contract, Thousand Oaks teachers have asked the school board for a pay raise to make up for a 3% pay cut the teachers took last year.

The Unified Assn. of Conejo Teachers also asked the Conejo Valley Unified School District board to reduce the maximum class size from 38 to 37 students and to restore some health-care benefits for older children of teachers. The proposed contract would replace one expiring in June.

"Basically, we're looking to make up what we lost," said John Uelmen, president of the teachers' union.

The school board announced this week that it was projecting a $2.45-million budget surplus for the 1995-96 school year. Uelmen said that money should go to the teachers.

School district officials were reluctant to discuss immediately the details of the union proposal, which they received at Thursday night's school board meeting.

On Friday, Assistant Supt. Leean Nemeroff called the offer "a comprehensive proposal and one that's going to require a lot of conversation."

But Nemeroff said agreeing to everything the union has asked for would cost the district at least $4.4 million and throw the district's budget back in the red.

Nemeroff said she will prepare a detailed analysis of the costs of the union's proposal in time for a hearing at the next school board meeting on March 9. The district will probably tender its counteroffer at the March 23 school board meeting, and negotiations will begin after that, she said.

The teachers reluctantly accepted a pay cut last year to help the school district close a budget deficit.

Their current contract proposal asks the district to restore the 3% pay cut and to raise salaries an additional 5% to make up for the pay the teachers lost this year. Uelmen said the 5% includes the lost money from the 3% pay cut and from two teacher-preparation days removed from this year's school calendar to cut costs.

The union's 700 members now earn between $28,000 and $49,000 a year, Uelmen said.

The union also wants to add to its contract a provision that would ban the school district from transferring teachers older than 55 or from reassigning them to different grades or subject areas.

"Sometimes the district can use that to sort of give the teacher a hint that it's time to retire," Uelmen said.

The union's initial contract proposal includes other requested changes to the current contract, including minor changes to the teachers' dental benefits and in the way the district decides who is hired to teach summer school. But the salary issue is probably the most important to the teachers, Uelmen said.

"Most of the things come down to money," he said.

The union president said the negotiations depend on the state budget, which under state law must be approved by July 1. As a result a contract will probably not be signed until September or October.

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