School district, teachers meet in the middle on salary increase at 4.5% for the 2022-23 school year
FARMERSVILLE – Farmersville Unified and its teachers have reached an agreement for the upcoming school year after months of an extremely bitter and public labor dispute.
The district and the Farmersville Teachers Association (FTA) had reached an impasse in negotiations on May 5 after the two sides were unable to agree on a salary increase. Farmersville issued its “last, best and final offer” to the FTA on March 30. The offer included a 4% raise, a fully funded health care plan, and an increase of $10 to their hourly rate. The offer also included a $4,000 one-time stipend for concurrent instruction for the 2022-23 school year in addition to a $4,000 stipend for the 2021-22 year through a separate memorandum of understanding (MOU).
On April 25, the teacher’s union declined the offer and countered with a salary increase of 5% instead of 4%. Superintendent Paul Sevillano said the district declined and filed for an impasse on May 2 with the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB), a quasi-judicial agency overseeing labor issues between public agencies and their employees. The two parties met for a remote mediation session on May 19 and both sides made progress. A second remote mediation session was scheduled on May 31 but the two sides were able to meet in the middle on a 4.5% raise. The tentative agreement was ratified by the teachers union members on June 3.
“The district would like to thank FTA for their on-going partnership and positive working relationship during the mediation process,” Sevillano said during his Superintendent’s Comments at the June 14 Throughout the negotiations, teachers have consistently said 4% was not enough to keep up with the rising inflation, not enough to retain experienced teachers and less than the cost of expensive training programs to bring new teachers up to speed. Teachers, parents and community members have packed the boardroom since March to voice their concerns about pay, hostile work environment and administrative overreach.
Teachers said the district was in a good financial position and could afford the difference between 4% and 5%, which amounts to $135,000 spread across the district’s 136 teachers, according to the district’s 2021-22 budget. It is far less than the more than $2 million the district included in fully funded health and welfare benefits on the table for most of the negotiations. The average teacher salary in Farmersville in 2020-21 was $77,012, about $400 more than Exeter Unified ($76,611), just $100 more than Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified ($79,936) and just $100 less than Woodlake Unified ($77,133), according to Ed-Data.org. Those numbers did not include contracts already signed in other districts for the upcoming 2022-23 school year. Those districts had similar enrollment sizes to Farmersville Unified, which had an average daily attendance of about 2,300 students in the 2020-21 school year.
Heading into the 2021-22 school year, FUSD’s total revenues were $43.3 million with total expenditures of $39.3 million, according to Ed-Data.org, a partnership between the California Department of Education, EdSource and Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team. Farmersville Unified began the school year with $8.5 million in reserves, about 17.87% of its operating budget, and $7 million more than the 3% required by the state, according to the district’s 2021-22 budget.
In an email exchange after the meeting, Sevillano said the district actually has a reserve of 37% of its budget, about $15.8 million, but about 15% of that is in one-time, restricted funds which can only be spent on school safety and learning loss and not for ongoing salaries and benefits. These funds will expire in September 2023 and 2024. Sevillano also said district enrollment has fallen by 6.9% since 2019, which will affect the school’s average daily attendance funding, and the state may make changes to the Local Control Funding Formula, supplemental funding provided for at-risk student groups, by the time the 2022-23 budget is approved sometime this month.
“The ultimate test for salary and benefit increases is whether the district can afford increases in the future years,” Sevillano said. “This involves projecting district revenues and expenses for 3 years out to ensure the district can meet its required minimum reserves in the future.”
However, Farmersville Unified spent $5,556 per student in teacher salaries 2020-21, about $300 less than the state average, but more than similar sized districts in nearby Exeter ($5,095) and Woodlake ($5,184), according to Ed-Data.org.