The Marysville Education Association voted last week to freeze teachers' salaries for two years and forgo a scheduled 1-percent pay increase due to be enacted in September, saving the school district $2.78 million.

Marysville teachers have stepped forward and offered some help as the district faces tough financial decisions.

The Marysville Education Association voted last week to freeze teachers' salaries for two years and forgo a scheduled 1-percent pay increase due to be enacted in September, saving the school district $2.78 million.

Under the terms of the new contract, which will extend through 2013, teachers also agreed to forgo scheduled step increases.

The school board would have to approve the measure when it meets at 7 p.m. Monday, June 27, at the district office, 1000 Edgewood Drive.

Superintendent Larry Zimmerman said the new contract would nullify the terms of the previous teachers' agreement, which was scheduled to expire Dec. 31 and extend the contract between the district and the teachers union for two years. He added that, while formal negotiations did not take place, the State Employment Relations Board would need to be notified of the agreement.

"MEA leaders went to the superintendent and treasurer to see what we could do to help the district and extend (the contract) a year or two," MEA president Juliet Litzel told ThisWeek.
Zimmerman characterized the offer as "a group of folks trying to solve issues for the good of the district."

"They are not only offering a complete pay freeze for the next two-and-a-half years, but giving back a raise that was agreed to at our last negotiation," board president Jeff Mabee explained.

Board member Doug Lassiter said he has concerns about extending the contract with Senate Bill 5 reforms pending.

"I understand why the union was the extension, but I am not sure it is in the best interest of the community to decline the S.B. 5 reforms in order to squeak by for the next two years," he told ThisWeek. "All the talk over the last several months about exaggerated state funding cuts and the need to make painful district cuts has certainly set the stage for selling this extension."

Mabee said the measure would allow the district to plan and implement the changes in S.B. 5.

Zimmerman explained that S.B. 5 wasn't considered during these discussions, and that "if S.B. 5 occurs, we will follow whatever rules become law."

The move would save nearly 40 positions which were due to be eliminated during the 2012-13 school year but would not save the more than 20 positions being reduced for next school year.

"After the district did not replace those who (opted for a district retirement incentive), we looked to save jobs to keep members employed but even more importantly to keep class sizes down," Litzel said.

Zimmerman said the district will "still move forward with fewer people, actually the same number of staff we had in 2004, yet we will be 600 students larger (than in 2004)," meaning larger class sizes.

Zimmerman said that other cost-saving measures will still be needed to close an anticipated expected $2.6 million budget shortfall by the end of the 2012-2013 school year. The board discussed some options offered by Zimmerman at its meeting in May, and the superintendent told ThisWeek he will recommend some of those options at Monday's meeting.

He said he will recommend applying the same freezes agreed to by the MEA to classified and administrative staff. Other recommendations include an additional $50 pay-to-participate fee ($200 total), a reduction of some coaching and activity positions and the addition of certain other fees.

He will not recommend raising the cost of school lunches nor reductions in middle school sports, both items discussed at last month's meeting.

The district's finance committee also offered feedback to the board on measures discussed in May. In particular, that committee's extracurricular subcommittee recommended creating a tiered schedule of pay-to-participate fees, with additional transportation and equipment fees based on the activity.

The committee also strongly recommended against any cuts to middle-school sports.